Pittsford Arrives at Cusp of History Again

March 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Their record alone – 102-2 – is simply incredible to consider.

And by the end of Saturday morning, Pittsford seniors Jaycie Burger and Maddie Clark could finish their careers alone as the winningest girls basketball players in Michigan high school history.

The Wildcats’ all-state duo tied former St. Ignace standout Kelley Wright (102-5 from 2011-14) for first on the MHSAA's varsity wins list with their team’s 57-39 Class D Semifinal victory Thursday over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.

And that set up one more history-making opportunity Saturday for a team that has put its small Hillsdale County town on the sports map. Top-ranked Pittsford will take on unranked Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary in the Class D Final riding a two-season, 54-game winning streak as it looks to finish with a second straight Finals title.

“It’s, honestly, kind of unbelievable,” Burger said. “We come from a small town. No one had every heard of it before the first time we came here. Pittsford … tiny. Like Maddie said last year, we just got a Family Dollar, and that’s like the biggest news ever. 

“So for us to be able to come here three years in a row and have the possibility to win a second state championship is just awe-inspiring. And I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to play this long with these girls and with my team, and I’m thankful to do something that’s this great.”

Pittsford will attempt that repeat finish at 10 a.m. Saturday. But getting the opportunity wasn’t as easy as showing up Thursday to what’s become a home court away from home. 

Wildcats coach Chris Hodos called Sacred Heart the toughest team his has faced this season, and with good reason. The Irish, without a senior, fell to only 25-2 with the loss after playing in their third Semifinal in four seasons. Sacred Heart was Class D champion in 2015 and fell to Pittsford in the championship game last winter, 48-30.

The Irish led into the second quarter this time and tied the score again with two minutes to play in the first half – before the Wildcats scored the final five points of the half to slowly start to pull away.

“Very simple. Our gameplan was to attack the press and attack the basket,” Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said. “The energy of putting pressure on them was something we really wanted to do. I think last year we were a little hesitant. I think we were caught up in the moment last year, but this year we were more aggressive. I loved how we played this year.”

Pittsford stifled Sacred Heart with defense and rebounding, forcing 28 turnovers while giving the ball up only 13 times and outrebounding the Irish 37-29 – including 21-5 on the offensive boards.

Clark led with 19 points and eight rebounds, and Burger had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Marissa Shaw chipped in eight points and eight steals – her 171 steals this season rank seventh in MHSAA history.

“Her anticipation is just off the hook,” Hodos said. “You can’t say enough about her. She made big baskets for us tonight. She makes some great passes.”

Sophomore guard Scout Nelson led Sacred Heart with 16 points, and junior forward Sophia Ruggles added eight points and five rebounds. As noted, Sacred Heart didn’t have a senior – the Irish were paced by six juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.

“The locker room was a little bit different this year. There was some sadness, but the motivation and the energy to get back at it again and get back here next year has already started,” Brown said. “And that’s what I like, a group of girls who are committed to being the best team they can be. This is just a small hurdle that we’ll overcome.”

“I think it’s a big motivation for us,” Ruggles added. “Like he said, we’re all hungry to get back in the gym and compete, and it just adds a little fire to (our) want to get better.”

Meanwhile, Pittsford's four seniors, including forward Katelyn Kafer and guard Katie Clement, can cement their Breslin legacy with one last win.

And they're prepared to face the hype that will go with that historic opportunity.

"As long as we keep the same mentality we’ve had all year, just to play our game and execute our gameplan, we should be OK,” Burger said. “As long as we don’t let the hype that surrounds the state championship interfere with our team chemistry and our gameplan, I think that definitely should be OK.

“But it’s definitely going to be surreal feeling. It’s going to be the last time I’m out there with my girls. And it’s going to be, definitely, a game to remember.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) A pair of Pittsford defenders tie up Sacred Heart’s Sophie Ruggles during Thursday’s Class D Semifinal. (Middle) The Wildcats’ Maddie Clark (10) works to get a shot up over Grace Reetz (2).

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.