Hudsonville Holds On to Clinch 1st Finals Championship

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

April 9, 2021

EAST LANSING — To say Hudsonville’s Jaci Tubergen and Alaina Diaz were locked in during Friday’s Division 1 Final would be an extreme understatement. 

One of them went on an 11-0 personal run, while the other had ice water in her veins during a three-minute stretch that helped her team fend off Detroit Renaissance, 65-61, to capture the first girls basketball state championship in Hudsonville history.

Tubergen broke open what had been a tie game just minutes earlier. The junior took a pass from senior Ashlynn Bailey and drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to give her team a five-point lead with 4:37 remaining in the first half. On their next possession, the Eagles once again found Turbergan open, this time from the opposite wing. She hit another 3-pointer to push the lead to eight. A traditional three-point play and baseline jumper by Tubergen capped off a personal 11-point run to push Hudsonville’s lead to 47-34.

“To see shots go in, it’s a good feeling,” said Tubergen, who finished with a game-high 28 points. “Alaina handling the pressure as the point guard and other girls attacking and kicking (out), they got me pretty open. I’m lucky to have teammates who are willing to drive in and draw the defenders, leaving people open on the wings.”

Tubergen would finish with 16 points in the third quarter alone, as the Eagles saw a one-point halftime lead balloon to 14 points heading into the fourth.

But Renaissance, which battled back from a big deficit in Wednesday’s Semifinal against Wayne Memorial to make it to Friday’s Final, wasn’t finished. The Phoenix scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to cut the Eagles’ lead to two points at 54-52. Senior Shannon Wheeler had three steals and senior Mikyah Finley had two herself during the run to help their team get back into the game. Senior Kailee Davis had five of her team-high 26 points over that stretch.

“They did a great job of mixing up defenses,” Hudsonville head coach Casey Glass said. “I think when you play in the moment like that, you let one thing lead to another. The big thing for us was to weather the storm. We knew that they were going to apply pressure. We knew there were going to be spurts in the game.”

The Eagles certainly did weather the storm. Moments after missing the front end of a one-and-one, Diaz calmly stepped back up to the line and sank a pair of free throws which gave her team a 56-52 lead with 2:44 to play. Those were the first points of the fourth quarter for Hudsonville.

Diaz wasn’t done. She would go on to make six more free throws without a miss to help her team pull out the victory.

2021 D1 Girls Basketball Final

“I’m just used to the pressure because at practice we usually have pressure free throws and I’m just thinking that I have to do it for my family, my teammates,” said Diaz, who finished 9 of 10 from the line. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.” 

Renaissance would make another late push, but came up short. The Phoenix were just 18 of 30 from the free throw line.

“The press eventually starts to get to you, and it eventually started to get to them,” Lawal said. “I just think that we had a few chances after they turned it over (to us), or when we kind of got them to take a rushed shot that led to a rebound and fast break, we weren’t able to convert like we did Wednesday (against Wayne Memorial). I think that’s the biggest difference.”

And he did touch on his team’s missed opportunities at the line:

“I’m not going to give coach (Greg) Kampe credit for this quote, because I’m sure he stole it from someone, but he said, ‘Two things in this world that don’t last, dogs that chase cars and teams that don’t make free throws.’ We didn’t make free throws, so we didn’t last. We got away with it Wednesday against Wayne Memorial. God said you’re not going to get away with it twice.”

Finley finished with 13 points and Wheeler added nine points and eight rebounds for Renaissance, which finished 13-5.

Hudsonville capped off a magical season which saw it finish 23-1. Diaz ended the day with 15 points and seven rebounds, while junior Eva Joldersma had four points and 11 rebounds in her team’s win.

“Going into tonight, I said to myself, ‘I’m the luckiest coach in the state of Michigan,’ ” Glass said. “I’ve gotten more time with my team this year, being in a state championship (game), than any other coach. When you coach, you’re looking for how much time you can spend with your players, or how much impact you can make as a coach. Our team has always been like family. We play together, we push each other.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Hudsonville's Emmalynn Costen (5) establishes position in the post during Friday's Division 1 Final. (Middle) Renaissance's Nika Dorsey (12) works to get the ball upcourt. (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.