P-W Wins OT to Earn Historic Opportunity

March 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Pewamo-Westphalia has played in three MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals. Three more teams have ended seasons in the Semifinals. Four more teams on top of those reached Quarterfinals and were done.

Total, that’s 10 teams that had made the final week of the season before this one. And now the Pirates have earned another opportunity to celebrate for all of them.

P-W will play for its first championship thanks to a 37-33 overtime win over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Thursday that also set the record for the lowest-scoring Semifinal in MHSAA girls basketball history.

Despite scoring six or fewer points during the second, third and fourth quarters, the Pirates outscored Arbor Prep 7-3 in the extra period to reach their second Final in three seasons.

“We’ve been here so many times before, and it’s frustrating when you just miss it by such a short amount,” P-W junior guard Ellie Droste said. “So this year being able to make it to the Finals again, and hopefully we can come out with the win … at practice every single day we work for these moments. We work on defense, we work on offense, we work on pressure situations. And that’s what got us here.”

The Pirates (26-1) will take on Flint Hamady in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Division 3 championship game at Calvin College.

Droste and Hannah Spitzley were freshmen on the P-W team that fell 46-44 to Detroit Edison in the 2017 Class C Final. Rachel Huhn was a sophomore sub on that team and then played 20 minutes as a junior in last season’s Semifinal loss to the Pioneers.

But the program’s drive for this opportunity goes back much farther than the last few years. The 1983 and 1984 teams both lost in Class C Finals – the 1983 Pirates to Hamady.

Arbor Prep (19-7) was last season’s Class C runner-up and playing in its fifth straight Semifinal.

“I was a 10-year-old boy back in 1984, 85, watching Carol Bogard Rademacher take teams to Western Michigan back at that time and fall short with great teams and great kids that were extremely well-coached,” Pirates coach Steve Eklund said. “It’s that hurdle we just haven’t been able to get over. So I’m excited for these kids, I’m excited for our community, I’m excited for all of these girls basketball teams we’ve had over the last 30 years that have been there and just not gotten over the hurdle. It just burns inside of me to go get that win Saturday, and we’re going to do everything in our power to go get that win for all of the teams from the past.”

To earn the opportunity, P-W had to hop a few hurdles Thursday. Arbor Prep featured one of the top freshmen in the state in guard Mya Petticord and 2018 all-state honorable mention Mahri Petree. And both teams struggled to get the ball through the hoop – P-W made 33 percent of its shot from the floor and Arbor Prep checked in at 29 percent, and combined they connected on just 7-of-33 3-point shots.

The Pirates ended the first quarter up 14-7. Arbor Prep stormed back to make it 18-18 at the break. For the game, the score was tied five times and the lead changed seven.  

Droste scored to give P-W the first lead of overtime 28 seconds in, and she made two free throws to make the advantage 34-30 with 1:28 to play. Senior Karli Waddell came up with a huge 3-pointer for Arbor Prep to cut the lead to one with 33 seconds left on the clock. But Spitzley made 3-of-4 free-throw tries over the final 12 seconds, and Arbor Prep got off only one shot after Waddell’s 3-pointer.

“I think we lost to the state champion,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “(I’m) disappointed we couldn’t score a few more points, questioning whether we should’ve been more aggressive defensively. That’s a coaching call … we’ll look at after today and decide if we should’ve been more aggressive, should’ve pushed the tempo.

“If you’d told me the score would be 34-30, I would’ve said it was 50/50 who would win the game. If you’d told me someone got to 50 points, I’d have said Arbor Prep would’ve won.”

Petticord led Arbor Prep with 14 points, and senior Kashyra Jackson had 10 and eight rebounds. Spitzley scored 16 to lead P-W, while Droste had 15 points and four assists. Junior Addison Bauer didn’t score a point and attempted just one shot, but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

“My players made adjustments. Defensively after the first quarter, I thought they were extremely solid,” Stine said. “I thought we made things tough on them, just the same way they made things tough on us.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Pewamo-Westphalia’s Ellie Droste makes a move toward the basket during Thursday’s second Division 3 Semifinal. (Middle) Arbor Prep’s Alaya Mack seeks an opening.

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.