Edison Closes Dominant Run as Champ Again

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 23, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS – The Detroit Edison girls basketball team has been leaving people in awe all season. 

On Saturday night, the Pioneers' own coach was a bit star struck after they defeated Freeland 77-58 to claim the Division 2 championship. 

“This is a phenomenal group that I have,” Edison coach Monique Brown said. “I don’t even know where to start with this group and what we’ve accomplished together as one unit. Today up and down with our defense, they had so many 3s on us, but we just kept fighting and fighting and pushing and communicating. I’m just so happy to be up here with these young ladies and to say I’m their coach.” 

The title is the third straight for Edison, with the previous two coming in Class C. Edison is the sixth school in MHSAA history to win three straight girls basketball titles, and the Pioneers’ run was a dominant one. Through its first seven postseason games, their average margin of victory was 48.7 points, with their closest game prior to the Final coming in a 27-point win against Haslett in the Semifinal. 

With that type of run, it could have been easy for the Pioneers to lose focus, but they never did. 

“The way we were able to stay focused was our practice and each other,” Edison junior forward Gabrielle Elliott said. “We were always on each other’s back in practice. We were blowing people out, so we had to stay focused. Our biggest competition was ourselves, and we were going so hard in practice. That’s what people didn’t see as to why we were beating people by 50.” 

Unfortunately for the rest of the state, Edison’s powerhouse may not be going anywhere. While graduating senior Rickea Jackson, this year’s Miss Basketball Award winner, is certainly going to hurt, she’s the only senior on the Pioneers’ roster. 

“Many, many years with more state championships,” Jackson said when asked what’s to come. “It doesn’t just run on me, it was a team effort. There are other great teammates and great shooters, scorers, rebounders that are still here, so I think it can go a long time.” 

Jackson was the star again Saturday night, scoring a game-high 28 points and adding five rebounds in her final game. Next year, she’ll be playing at Mississippi State. 

“Amazing,” Freeland coach Tom Zolinski said. “She really is. We would make a little run then she’d come back and hit a quick shot, a mid-range shot or even a three. She’s tough.” 

During the Division 3 game, which directly preceded the Division 2 Final, Jackson was awarded the Miss Basketball trophy. It could have made an already large target on her back even bigger, but she said that she used it as motivation. 

“It made me feel like I had to win this championship even more,” Jackson said. “Why not finish your season with Miss Basketball and a third state championship? If we didn’t get it, I would have been very hurt. It made me more confident. Getting that award definitely made me way more confident just knowing that I could go out there and play my game. There was nothing more I could do to go out there and prove to nobody. I could play my game.” 

Edison did struggle from the perimeter in the first half, hitting just 1 of 10 attempts from 3-point range. But the Pioneers made up for that with 12 second-chance points and 11 points off turnovers to lead 37-24 at the half.  

Freeland didn’t back down from the state’s top-ranked team, and every time it looked like Edison was about to blow the top off the game, the Falcons found points either from the field or the free-throw line to remain within shouting distance.  

While they weren’t great from the field, shooting just 6 of 23, they were perfect on their 10 first-half free-throw attempts. 

In the second half, those perimeter shots started falling for the Pioneers as they hit their first four attempts from beyond the arc, three coming from sophomore guard Damiya Hagemann.  

“We were rushing a little bit offensively and settling for the 3-point shot,” Brown said. “In the first half we were 1 for 10, and when I’m looking at these numbers, we were 7 for 19 (for the game), so we went 6 for 9 in the second half, which is pretty good. That says a lot about who we are and how we listen and pay attention, and how we go out there and work together as a unit.” 

While the lead grew to 19 heading into the fourth quarter, Freeland hit its own shots to again keep the game from getting completely away. 

The Falcons were able to cut into the lead a bit in the final quarter, but never got closer than 14 points over the final eight minutes.  

Elliott scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds for Edison, while Hagemann had 13 points and nine assists. 

Alyssa Argyle led Freeland with 18 points and five rebounds, while Kadyn Blanchard had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Autumn Kloha had 11 points and five assists. 

“They made history in Freeland,” Zolinski said. “Tonight, they gave it their all. It was a tough task tonight, and a lot of credit goes to them. But what a group of girls right here. In four years, they won 94 games and lost 11. Never lost a conference game, and I’m definitely going to miss them. They’ve set it up for the future.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison players raise their Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Rickea Jackson gets an open look in the lane.

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.