Edison Avenges Loss, Locks Up Repeat
March 17, 2018
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Detroit Edison’s girls basketball team had one loose end left to tie this weekend.
By midway through the third quarter Saturday, everything the Pioneers had hoped to accomplish was secured – including their second straight Class C championship.
Edison avenged its lone loss of the season with a 51-34 victory over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep at Van Noord Arena. The Gators had won their regular-season meeting 54-49 on Jan. 11.
And early in the rematch, they looked to be Edison’s nemesis again. Arbor Prep jumped out to an eight-point lead barely five minutes into the game. But the Pioneers responded with a 16-7 run to take the lead for good midway through the second quarter.
“The first quarter rattled us a little bit. But we overcame many other games when we were down,” Edison junior Rickea Jackson said. “When we hold each other accountable for things, we can get on each other, and we trust one another. So it was easier for us to get back in the game.”
And that served as proof of the biggest difference in this year’s team from the one that claimed the school’s first MHSAA title in any sport a year ago.
This season’s Pioneers have been considered by many the best team in the state, regardless of Class, thanks to a run through a number of contenders in Class A and B including an overtime 57-55 win over Saginaw Heritage on Feb. 20. Heritage won the Class A title earlier Saturday.
But while Edison (24-1) has won 33 of its last 34 games going back to last season, that one defeat still gnawed away.
“We knew in the back of our heads that Arbor Prep was the only team we’d lost to this year,” Pioneers coach Monique Brown said. “I think that was sitting with us when we first started, so (there was) a lot of anxiety when we started.
“Last year, we got off to that start against a Country Day or Arbor Prep, we weren’t able to overcome that. (Their) lead of seven points, eight points would turn into 15 by the end of the game. So I think our maturity and our tough schedule we had this year had prepared us for this moment today.”
Brown had noticed from film of the first matchup that her team, while applying some effective pressure, didn’t finish it off with points off turnovers.
The Pioneers had 28 points off Arbor Prep’s 20 turnovers Saturday. They also outrebounded the Gators 46-39 and held them to 13 percent shooting from the floor over the final three quarters. Jackson had six points and sophomore guard Shaulana Wagner had four off the bench during the run to the lead. Edison sophomore Gabrielle Elliott, meanwhile, scored 16 of her game-high 20 points during the second half.
“We didn’t have the effort to finish the plays in the first half to keep us in the lead,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “The second half got very physical. … We really didn’t have our rhythm the whole game, and it showed. They’re regarded as the best team in the state, and you’ve gotta play a great game to beat them. We weren’t perfect today.”
Elliott made 8 of 12 shots from the floor. Jackson followed her scoring with 16 points to go with 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals. Wagner, a starter last season and significant sub in both games this weekend, added six points, eight rebounds and five steals. Freshman guard Damiya Hagemann had nine points and five assists.
Arbor Prep senior Lasha Petree, a Miss Basketball finalist this season, finished with 19 points, six rebounds and five blocks. None of her teammates scored more than four, however, as the 34 points total were their season low.
This was Arbor Prep’s third straight championship game appearance. The Gators (21-6) won Class C in 2016, then finished runner-up in Class B a year ago.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Gabrielle Elliott works to get past Mahri Petree during Saturday’s Class C Final. (Middle) Arbor Prep’s Lasha Petree gets her hand on an Elliott shot.
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.
But 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 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 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.