Edison Claims Rematch, Chance to Repeat

March 15, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – All nine Detroit Edison players who saw the floor in last season’s Class C championship win over Pewamo-Westphalia were back for Thursday’s Semifinal at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.

But there was a clear difference in the rematch after the Pioneers won last year’s meeting by two points.

Edison freshman guard Damiya Hagemann might not have been the only reason her team advanced this time with a 50-39 victory. But there’s no question she brings another dimension to a roster that includes one of the state’s best juniors in Rickea Jackson, a top sophomore in Gabrielle Elliott and a number of other contributors who have helped the Pioneers become known as arguably the best team in the state, regardless of class.

Hagemann had 13 points, three assists, two steals and only two turnovers – providing a noticeable boost to go with Jackson’s 25 points and seven rebounds.

“She adds everything – an ability to attack the rim, she brings the mental toughness, physical toughness,” Jackson said. “Overall, she’s a really great guard. And the chemistry we have together, it makes the game easier.”

Edison (23-1) will face Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game.

The Pioneers never outscored P-W (25-1) by more than four points in a quarter Thursday. But overall, the Pirates’ 39 points were their second-fewest this season. P-W entered the game outscoring its opponents by nearly 41 points per game.

“It’s tough to lose in the Finals and Semifinals, but what a great story to play a team that’s going to go down with probably one of the best four-year runs in Michigan state basketball (history),” P-W coach Steve Eklund said. “And we’re going to be able to say we battled with them twice. Three of those girls are going to play Big Ten basketball or play in the WNBA someday, and we’ll say we played them one day and we were right there with them.”

Elliott also grabbed 10 rebounds as Edison as a team outrebounded P-W 35-23. Sophomore guard Shaulana Wagner – the player who moved to the bench with Hagemann’s arrival this season – grabbed seven more in 18 minutes as the most active of the team’s subs.

“She’s a wonderful kid. She told me when Damiya came it didn’t mater if she started or not,” Edison coach Monique Brown said. “We talked heavily about starting roles. … Their job and role was to come in and change the magnitude of game, and they accepted that role. Although she’s not starting, she plays starting minutes. She’s out there at the end of the game, every time we have a close game.”

There have been only a few. P-W played the Pioneers closer than all but four opponents this season – especially impressive considering Edison’s schedule included five games against teams playing at Calvin this weekend in Class A, B or C.

But the Pirates had a hard time coming closer, in part because they struggled with usually reliable 3-point shooting. P-W made only 4 of 19 long-range shots Thursday, as opposed to about 40 percent coming into the game.

Emily Spitzley, one of only two seniors on the team, led with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Ellie Droste added 11 points.

After falling in its District opener in 2015, P-W went on to win its District in 2016 before launching the two straight runs to Finals weekend.

“Just thinking back on the four years I’ve had playing with this team, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Spitzley said. “From where we were freshman year to now, it’s totally flip-flopped. We got so much better and really built a name for ourselves, being a top team in the state and playing with the best teams out there.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Edison's Rickea Jackson applies defensive pressure during Thursday's first Class C Semifinal. (Middle) P-W's Ellie Droste (40) and Edison's Shaulana Wagner get in position for a possible rebound. 

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.