Edison Marches On in Quest for 3-Peat

March 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Detroit Edison’s mission has been pretty clear from the opening tip this season.

The Pioneers, off two straight Class C championships, opted up to Division 2 this winter and then defeated most of the best teams from the rest of the state – including three Division 1 semifinalists and the top-ranked team in Division 3.

While Haslett did give Edison its first tournament game this winter closer than 30 points in Friday’s last Semifinal at Van Noord Arena, the Pioneers pulled away early and prevailed 70-43 to make the final day of the season for the third straight winter.

They’ll go for their third straight MHSAA championship Saturday against Freeland in the 6:15 p.m. title game. It will be an opportunity to add one more achievement to a large stack over the last three seasons, and a crowning one for lone senior Rickea Jackson, who was named this year’s Miss Basketball earlier this week.

“(It’s) just to finish out strong with the challenges we overcame this year,” Jackson said. “Everyone knows who we are, so for us to have this huge target on our back and for us to make it this far, it just means we’ve been working hard in practice and we’re seeing our hard work pay off.”

Edison improved to 26-1 this season and 70-7 over the last three, its only defeat this winter to Ohio power Columbus Africentric 65-60. It will try to become the sixth school to win three straight MHSAA girls basketball championships, joining Flint Northern, Detroit Country Day (twice), Waterford Our Lady, Portland St. Patrick and Leland.

The Pioneers began with a little bit of a different starting lineup Friday, but it didn’t change up much in terms of results. A Jackson basket with 5:29 to go in the second quarter pushed the advantage to double digits for the first time and permanently.

Jackson finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, and junior Gabrielle Elliott – another member of all three Finals teams – added 21 points and four assists.

The unranked Vikings (19-7) had defeated three other ranked teams during this postseason to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 2015. But No. 1 Edison presented a strong challenge to their perimeter shooting and held Haslett to just 2-of-14 from 3-point range.

“Typically we’re a really good 3-point shooting team – we actually set a school record this year for the most 3-point field goals made – and I thought we got good looks. But with their length and athleticism they speed you up and those looks close pretty quickly,” Haslett coach Ross Baker said. “Maybe if we hit a couple of those early, we could’ve built a little more momentum. But … anything we’ve asked these girls to do, they do it 110 percent. I thought we handled their pressure. They’re really long. I thought we were really competitive on the glass – I think in the first half we were about even, but the second half we ran out of steam.”

Sophomore forward Skyla Nosek led Haslett with 16 points, and senior guard Ella McKinney added 15.

“Our eighth grade year was when Haslett was in the championship. And being honest, coming in freshman year I thought we’d make a tournament run too,” McKinney said. “We got a tough draw with East Lansing and lost in the first game, but ever since that we’ve had a little bit of fire to push ourselves in the postseason. This year we knew we had a special team, and being seniors we wanted to be leaders and to carry the team as far as we could. It was something really special, and we’ll never forget being here – and playing against a great team is pretty great too.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Rickea Jackson rises above Haslett’s defenders to launch a shot during Friday’s second Division 2 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Haslett’s Brooke Bradley works to get around Edison's Damiya Hagemann.

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.