Hamady Holds On in Semifinal Return

March 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – For the first time in what seemed like a long time, Flint Hamady coach Keith Smith brought a group of players to the Breslin Center on Thursday who had never played in an MHSAA Semifinal. 

But this season’s Hawks had heard from past standouts who contributed to the team’s back-to-back Class C championships in 2009 in 2010.  And the advice they received boiled down to a few clear points: 

This is what to expect at Michigan State. This is how to play when the spotlight is brightest. Make sure to box out. And most importantly, listen and do whatever Coach Smith tells you, no matter how excitable he might be in the huddle.

He said Thursday to calm down. He told his players to be patient, even as Ypsilanti Arbor Prep was cutting a 16-point lead to two. Smith knew that his team, composed, would be just fine. 

And he was right. The No. 5 Hawks did hold off No. 3 Arbor Prep, 50-46, and will play Saturday for their fourth MHSAA title.

"I love it. It shows me he wants it as well as we do," Hamady senior center Aaliah Hill said her coach's energy. "Everything he does with his composure and his reaction, we're with it too.

"He knows what it takes to get here, and we're just going to keep on listening to him and trusting him."

Hamady (26-1) will face Calumet (23-2) in the Final at 4 p.m. Calumet was unranked at the start of the postseason and will make its first championship game appearance.

But as noted, this also will be the first championship game for a talented Hamady group that fell in its Regional last season and the Quarterfinals in 2013. 

On Thursday, the Hawks came out aggressively in pursuit of returning to the Final.

They led by 10 two minutes into the second quarter and pushed the advantage to 16 points with two minutes to play in the second quarter. 

But with the game rolling so smoothly, Hamady began to rush – and Arbor Prep went on a 16-3 run, creating havoc with its defensive press and taking advantage of six Hawks turnovers over an eight-minute period.

“That pressure is something different. I never thought I could see the day when someone would bring the same type of heat we bring,” Smith said. “We lost our composure a little bit.” 

Which is what Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells said put his team down by so much during the first half. The Gators (22-4), in their fourth year with a program, won Regional titles this season and last and played ranked teams from Class A and B this winter – but didn’t seem to find their groove until the third quarter. 

“We didn’t play with a lot of intensity in the first half, got beat on the offensive boards, and just didn’t move our feet very well,” Wells said. “We just kinda got caught up in the moment in the first half, just didn’t have the energy for whatever reason. By the time we made adjustments and got energized, we used a lot of energy to come back.” 

As Arbor Prep’s energy ran low, Hamady’s rhythm returned. The Hawks played the Gators just about even over the final seven minutes – good enough to hold on for the four-point win.

Hill led three on her team in double-digit scoring with 16 points to go with 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Krystal Rice added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Terry had 14 points. 

Junior guard Nastassja Chambers scored 14 points to lead Arbor Prep. Senior guard Payton Sims added eight points and four rebounds.

Hamady’s last two teams did break 20 wins – with 22 in 2012-13 and 23 last season – despite not reaching the final weekend either year. This team raised its level this winter even without senior guard Raasheedah Harris, the team’s third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder who was injured midseason. 

The Hawks suffered their lone loss on the court, to Class B semifinalist Detroit Country Day, soon after Harris was hurt. But “that’s when we woke up,” Smith said.

“This is something the girls can go on and take on the rest of their lives,” he added. “When they get a chance to play at a place like the Breslin Center, and the seniors hear from girls who come back from our championship teams, they hear their experiences and they want the experience as well. 

“And now they have it.”

Click for the full box score and video of the press conference.

PHOTO: (Top) Flint Hamady's Aaliah Hill pulls down a rebound during Thursday's Class C Semifinal. (Middle) Arbor Prep's Rohzane Wells brings the ball upcourt.

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.