Hudsonville Earns Historic Win with Signature Skill

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

April 7, 2021

EAST LANSING – Hudsonville head coach Casey Glass is beyond the point where he’ll mince words — particularly when it comes to his team’s defensive play.

He knows how good his Eagles are.

“It’s not a secret anymore, but I think we’re one of the best defensive teams in the state of Michigan,” Glass said. “We’ve got kids that come out every day ready to play and D it up.”

That was the case for Glass and his team during their Division 1 Semifinal game against Midland Dow Wednesday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Hudsonville put on a defensive clinic, holding the Chargers scoreless for the first 6½ minutes of the fourth quarter and limiting them to just 14 second-half points during a 49-35 victory which catapulted the Eagles into the championship game, where they’ll face Detroit Renaissance.

“You get Alaina (Diaz) and Eva Joldersma on their two best players, and we really just tried to use a little bit of extra height and athleticism to shut down their two best players and I thought we did a really good job of that,” Glass said.

Dow’s top two scorers, Alexa Kolnitys and Jada Garner, came into the game averaging a combined 30.6 points per contest. But they were limited to just 14 against the Eagles.

“I feel like most of our game is (about) defense, and every day at practice we push ourselves to play defense,” said Diaz, who finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals. “We play against each other and push each other to play harder.”

Hudsonville led by seven after one quarter and upped its lead to 17-8 moments into the second. But Dow went on a 10-0 run, fueled by a pair of 3-pointers by juniors Kennedy Caldwell and Abby Rey, a putback by Kolnitys and a pair of free throws by Rey, to take an 18-17 lead with 4:32 left in the first half.

Hudsonville/Midland Dow Division 1 Semifinal 2“We make our run in the second quarter, when we hit a few 3s and you get on a roll and take a lead. Then in the second half, we go 0-for-9 from beyond the 3-point line,” Dow coach Kyle Theisen said. “All year long, we’ve said that when we’re making shots, we can beat anybody, and when we’re missing shots, anybody can beat us. That’s what the second half was. We were missing shots. We got good looks at 3s and they didn’t go down for us.”

For the game, Dow shot just 12 for 46 from the field, including 4 for 15 from 3-point range.

“We don’t usually shoot that poorly,” Theisen continued. “We got the shots we wanted, but sometimes they just don’t go down. I absolutely loved the effort of our girls. I loved the all-out hustle on every play and never giving up.

“Diaz did a good job. We tried to get some switches on ball screens and she did a really good job of getting over the top or underneath on those ball screens. We were trying to attack some of their bigs with our guards, and she made it difficult. She’s a really good defender on the ball.

“When you have that much height protecting the rim on the help side, there were no easy points to be had.”

Rey led Dow with 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Kolnitys had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Chargers, who finished their season 22-1.

“Got to give (Midland Dow) credit, they’re well coached,” Glass said. “Those girls gave everything they had. Fortunately for us tonight, we had a little bit more in the tank.”

Hudsonville sophomore Maddie Petroelje led her team with 15 points. Junior Jaci Tubergen had seven points and a team-best 11 rebounds, while senior Emmalynn Costen added six points and 10 rebounds. The Eagles (22-1) will now take on Renaissance (13-4) in Friday’s Division 1 championship game, a first-time appearance in the finale for Hudsonville. The Phoenix defeated Wayne Memorial, 75-72, in Wednesday’s first Semifinal.

“Renaissance is a team that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Glass said. “We’re fortunate to have kids on our team that can handle that pressure. We’ll get back to Hudsonville, watch some film and get back to the drawing board and come up with a game plan for Friday.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Hudsonville's Alaina Diaz (23) makes her move as Dow's Jada Garner defends Wednesday at Breslin Center. (Middle) Diaz works to grab a loose ball while surrounded by Chargers.(Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.