East Lansing Rallies to Play 1 More Day

March 16, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – East Lansing found itself playing in the Semifinals again Friday for the first time since 2010.

But the Trojans also found themselves in an unfamiliar situation with potentially only 16 minutes left in their season.

East Lansing entered halftime trailing Wayne Memorial by three points – the first time it hadn’t led at the end of the first half this season.

“That really gave us a shocker and gave us a reality check that we needed to come out and play hard,” Trojans senior Aazhenii Nye said. “This wasn’t how our season was going to end. We worked so hard to get here. And that’s what we did – we just picked each other up and knocked down some big shots.”

And advanced, thanks to a big third-quarter push, with a 60-52 win over the Zebras.

East Lansing (26-0) will play Saginaw Heritage at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Van Noord Arena hoping to lock down its first Class A title since that 2010 run.

That team featured a Miss Basketball Award winner in Klarissa Bell, who went on to play at Michigan State. The Trojans entered this weekend fresh off the celebration for senior guard Jaida Hampton, this year’s winner.

But they also faced the challenge of taking on another finalist in Wayne senior guard Camree’ Clegg, who over the last three seasons had led a team that didn’t win a game before her arrival as a sophomore to its first Regional title and Semifinals this winter.

Clegg had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists Friday, while Hampton had seven points and nine rebounds. But the matchup was never as much about them individually as it was about East Lansing’s scrappy defense against a Zebras offense that had put up 73 on Detroit Country Day at the start of the season and 81 against a Plymouth team that finished second to Wayne in their league.

During the deciding third quarter, East Lansing made 9 of is 13 shots from the floor – including its first three – and held the Zebras to 3 of 13. The Trojans went on a 23-11 run and got up by as many as 12 before Clegg hit three free throws to close the period. 

“I thought those kids played as hard as just about any team we’ve played against,” Wayne coach Jarvis Mitchell said. “Every film that we’ve watched; we’ve seen them live, we’ve seen them on tape. They’re always competing.”

“Going into the third quarter, sometimes we let off a little bit,” Hampton said. “But the last few games we’ve come out really strong because the beginning of the third quarter is the most important. That’s where you see how you’re going to play the rest of the game. … I’m really happy we did make our first few shots, because that gave us a boost of energy to push through and let it keep going through the third and fourth quarter.”

East Lansing pushed the lead to 14 a minute into the fourth quarter before Wayne fought back to get it to the final margin.

Junior guard Sammiyah Hoskin added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Zebras (22-5), who graduate only Clegg off this history-making team.

“Wayne, four years ago 0-20, and now we have the whole community coming out to see us,” Clegg said. “Especially driving two and a half hours (to Calvin), it’s a great feeling. We just wanted to keep it going.”

Senior Amelia McNutt led East Lansing with 20 points and four steals, while Nye added 11 points and six rebounds and junior sister Aaliyah Nye had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

East Lansing had peaked in the Quarterfinals three times since its 2010 title, most recently in 2016 when these seniors were sophomores.

“We’ve been together for four years and it started off pretty rough in terms of how we worked together, with our chemistry,” East Lansing coach Rob Smith said as he sat for the press conference with Hampton, McNutt and Aazhenii Nye. “And in the last four years, these ladies have grown up big-time. They’re three of the most amazing seniors I’ve ever coached. … Right from the get go, we’ve been speaking about this moment all season long.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Lansing’s Sanaya Gregory pushes the ball upcourt as Wayne’s Jeanae Terry defends. (Middle) Wayne’s Camree’ Clegg works to get space against the Trojans.

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.