Pittsford Earns Title Game Return

March 17, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Pittsford’s girls basketball team returned to the Breslin Center on Thursday only a few players different than the team that fell in overtime of the Class D Final a year ago.

But the Wildcats set themselves up to show much difference a year can make with a 62-43 win over Waterford Our Lady in the evening’s first Semifinal.

Three starters and six of eight players who saw the floor in last season’s championship game were among 10 who got time against the Lakers in a rematch of last season’s 57-26 Pittsford Semifinal win.

When a team hasn’t lost a regular-season game in three seasons, what goals are left? Only one, and now the Wildcats have the opportunity to achieve it.

“It’s just an amazing opportunity to play here at the Breslin Center, to play for a state title,” Pittsford junior guard Jaycie Burger said. “To already have been here to play for a state title, and to know what it feels like to lose; I don’t want that to happen again. I would definitely like to be able to win this time.”

Top-ranked Pittsford (26-0) will face No. 3 Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Semifinal win brought the Wildcats to 74-2 over the last three seasons.

And they didn’t let Thursday’s game remain much of one past the midway point of the second quarter.

Junior center Maddie Clark nearly pulled a repeat of last season’s Semifinal performance. She made 9 of 10 shots from the field for 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds – after tallying 26 and 15, respectively, against Our Lady a year ago.

The Lakers tried to find a way to draw a second defender to help on Clark, but Pittsford made enough shots from the perimeter to give their top post player room to do her work.

A 3-pointer by senior Laura Smith with 1:47 to play in the second quarter pushed Pittsford’s lead to 10 – and it never dropped back to single digits.

Wildcats coach Chris Hodos said the No. 6 Lakers were the best his team has seen this season.

But Pittsford was plenty prepared.

“Everybody always says ‘unfinished business,’ but this is a totally different team,”  Hodos said. “But it’s been on our minds the whole year. We worked all summer, took all 15 of our dates, played everybody we could play. … We looked this year to get those games to be ready for this time right now.”

Burger added 15 points and three steals for Pittsford. Sophomore Tiffany Senerius had 20 points for the Lakers, and senior Alex Troy had seven and 10 rebounds.

The return to Breslin also added to a nice comeback for Our Lady (20-5). The Lakers made the Semifinals last season but still finished 12-13 after an even more uncharacteristic 8-13 in 2013-14.

This season’s run gave the Our Lady six 20-win seasons over the last eight and provided valuable experience for 10 players who should return next winter seeking the team’s fourth MHSAA title since 2010.

“It’s incredible, really, what’s happened in that last nine years,” Our Lady coach Steve Robak said. “This senior group wasn’t part of those first classes, obviously, but what’s happened at our school is they certainly saw what was going on. And when they got their chance, they were excited to put their mark on the school and get to Breslin and prove to people that first group of girls were not the only basketball players at the school.

“Last year (was) unexpected, but this year they came back very confidently because of that experience.” 

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Pittsford’s Laura Smith works to get by Our Lady’s Alex Troy on Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Clark shoots surrounded by defenders during the Class D Semifinal.

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.