Edison Advances to 1st Hoops Final

March 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – When Monique Brown heard voices as she walked past her players’ hotel rooms late Wednesday night, she was a little concerned.

Maybe she’d made a mistake bringing her young team to East Lansing the night before the biggest game in school history.

But as they have other times before, Detroit Edison Public School Academy’s players proved their coach wrong, coming out Thursday afternoon anything but sluggish in earning an even more memorable opportunity.

DEPSA – with nine freshman, a sophomore and two juniors on its roster – looked neither tired nor inexperienced in handing annual Breslin visitor Flint Hamady a 54-31 defeat in the day’s first Class C Semifinal.

“We got there late, and we couldn’t sleep. We were just talking about what we can do,” Pioneers sophomore guard Rickea Jackson said. “They came knocking on our doors … they took our phones. We couldn’t do anything but talk.”

DEPSA (20-5) will face Pewamo-Westphalia in Saturday’s Class C Final at 4 p.m. It will be the Pioneers' first appearance in an MHSAA girls basketball championship game.

As much as they had to discuss after midnight the evening before, Jackson and her teammates made a loud statement with their play to tip off this Finals weekend.

They held Hamady to 8.3-percent shooting from the floor during the first half in building a 28-8 lead. The Hawks did recover to shoot an improved 36 percent during the second half, but DEPSA made 49 percent of its shots for the game – and freshman Gabrielle Elliott had nine field goals, only one fewer than Hamady as a team.

Elliott finished with 24 points and Jackson had 16 and eight rebounds as they combined to drop 16 of 26 shots from the floor – not bad for a couple of underclassmen on the biggest stage for the first time. 

“We’ve never done that to a team like Flint Hamady, and I really commend my young group,” Brown said. “They’ve been preparing for this, we’ve talked about it, and as we’ve went through the season … I told them it was all in preparation for today. I always told them I don’t want to hear people say we’re talented; I want to hear them say how hard we play.”

Brown, also the school’s athletic director, had to know what she had coming this winter and scheduled appropriately. DEPSA opened 9-0, with a one-point win over Southfield Arts & Technology, a Class A semifinalist this weekend.

But the No. 5-ranked Pioneers then ran into a tough spot, losing three of its next five to Class A power Detroit Martin Luther King and Class B contenders Detroit Country Day and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. Sandwiched among those defeats, however, was a 43-39 win over Hamady, which made its third Semifinal appearance of this decade Thursday and finished Class C runner-up in 2015. 

That first Hawks loss to DEPSA on Jan. 31 was Hamady’s third straight after losing senior guard Krystal Rice for the season to a knee injury. Without Rice – who will continue her career at Indiana State University – the Hawks still managed to navigate a tournament run that included handing top-ranked Sandusky a 38-36 loss in the Regional Final.

“We didn’t give up on the season,” Hamady coach Keith Smith said. “We spent a lot of time watching film, spent a lot of time drilling on fundamentals, trying to tweak the little things we were not doing well and trying to be concerned on the details. (But) it caught up with us today to not have her, that extra senior who had played in a state final.”

Senior guard Deajah Cofield and freshman center Aryana Naylor both scored 10 points to lead Hamady, Cofield also totaling five steals and Naylor grabbing 10 rebounds.

With Rice out, Cofield was the only senior starter for Hamady, which finished the regular season unranked but ended up with a final record of 19-6.

Smith said he hadn't seen a team as talented as DEPSA with that many young players since his 2009 Class C championship team. 

The Pioneers didn’t play like mostly underclassmen Thursday, just a team with a little bit of a chip on their collective shoulders and the talent to dominate the next two to three seasons as well.

“(People) said we’d lose to Sandusky, and they didn’t make it to us, and they said we’d lose to Blissfield by two,” Jackson said, noting the 16-point Quarterfinal win over the No. 10 Royals. “We’re just tired of people doubting us. We’re so young, we don’t have any seniors, and we just want to prove everyone wrong.”

Click for the full box score

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) DEPSA's Gabrielle Elliott pushes the ball upcourt during her team's Class C Semifinal win. (Middle) Rickea Jackson works to get a hand on a shot by Flint Hamady's Danielle Tipton.

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.