Pittsford Pair Leads Repeat Title Charge
March 18, 2017
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – They could make left-handed layups as second graders. That just doesn’t happen. This was bound to be a special group.
Chris Hodos made that observation and prediction a decade ago, five seasons before taking over the Pittsford girls basketball program. He proved to be quite right – but never could’ve expected to say good-bye Saturday to a senior class including the most victorious pair in MHSAA girls basketball history.
The Wildcats finished a second straight Class D championship run Saturday and extended a two-season winning streak to 55 straight victories with a 71-31 title clincher over Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary at the Breslin Center.
Pittsford students chanted “automatic” after Maddie Clark’s first basket of the fourth quarter, and the Wildcats nearly have been the last four seasons. Four seniors played their last game Saturday morning – Clark, Jaycie Burger, Katelyn Kafer and Katie Clement – and after tying the record in Thursday’s Semifinal, Clark and Burger ended their careers 103-2 over their four varsity seasons – and with the MHSAA girls basketball record for career victories.
“I’m just so thankful to have been able to do this with all my best friends in the whole world. I love this team so much,” Burger said. “I’m sad this is our last game ever in a Pittsford uniform, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way. A running block in the state championship is pretty special, and I’m just happy that I got to take part in that. It’s sad, but it’s happy.”
This season’s Pittsford team finished 28-0, to go with a 27-0 record in 2015-16. The Wildcats fell in overtime to St. Ignace in the Class D championship game to close 2014-15, as their only loss of 2013-14 came in a Class C District Final to Adrian Madison.
Clark was named Class C Player of the Year this winter by The Associated Press, and Burger also was selected to the all-state first team. Both started during all three trips to Breslin, and Kafer saw the floor briefly in both the 2015 and 2016 Finals before starting Saturday.
“They’re winners up and down the line,” Hodos said. “They’re all 4.0 students, or close to it. We were academic all-state as a team last year and we’ll be close again this year. They’re all active in the community; they do a lot of good things off the court. They’re not just winners on the basketball court.”
As Burger drove into the lane two minutes in, saw the defense shift toward her and dropped a pass to an open Clark under the basket for two points, it was surely familiar to anyone who has followed the final weekend of girls basketball the last few years. Clark and Burger combined to score their team’s first 11 points against the Cardinals and 14 total during the first quarter as Pittsford took a 16-6 lead into the second.
Certainly to its credit, MLS (18-10) stuck within 10 of the Wildcats past the middle of the second quarter – something many teams have not been able to accomplish the last few seasons. And it was a memorable weekend as well for a Cardinals program that played in both its first Semifinal and championship game.
MLS kept within 30-17 heading into halftime. But Pittsford came out on a 26-6 run during the third quarter and pushed the lead further in the fourth.
Junior guard Reese VanLue led MLS with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“I’m definitely proud of our team. We achieved so much,” Cardinals senior center Rylee Pankow said. “It really does actually hurt, but we let our light shine on the court. It may not have been the score we wanted it to be, but I think we’re a better team than that but we didn’t play our best today.”
“We have a great group of leaders on this team. They played for each other all season, and they kept battling and battling,” MLS coach Brian Blaine added. “Our goal was to make a tournament run, and I know it hurt for these girls because they didn’t want it to end. But definitely when they get some time to take a look at this, they’ll realize it’s been a pretty magical run.”
Clark (29) and Burger (27) scored 56 of their team’s 71 points before coming off the court together as the clock ran under 30 seconds. Clark made 11 of 15 shots from the floor and all seven of her free throws, and also grabbed 10 rebounds. Burger added three assists and three steals, and junior guards Sydni Brunette and Marissa Shaw had six and four steals, respectively. Shaw finished this winter with 175 steals, tied for sixth most in MHSAA history for one season.
“We know our roles as a team,” Clark said. “I know a couple times Sydni had a wide-open look but she passed it to Jaycie because Jaycie was feeling it. We’re very unselfish and we know what our roles are, and that’s very important. And these girls are really special. … These last two seasons we have been perfect, and that doesn’t happen very often. And I’m thankful for my team, because they make me a better player.”
To answer again a question that’s been frequently asked this weekend, Pittsford is located southeast of Hillsdale and just west of U.S. 127, about 12 miles from the Ohio border.
The high school has a few more than 200 students, and friendships go back generations – this team certainly adding to that bond.
“We’re a pretty close group. Jaycie’s dad didn’t go to Pittsford, but him and I were friends in high school – actually, we hated playing against each other, but we loved it,” Hodos said. “And Mad’s dad and I were good friends in high school.
“And a lot of the other girls too; it started in kindergarten, and they’ve grown so much.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Pittsford’s players, coaches and fans celebrate at the end of Saturday’s Class D championship game win. (Middle) The Wildcats’ Jaycie Burger maneuvers to put up a shot over Michigan Lutheran Seminary’s Rylee Pankow.
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.
But 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 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 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.