Record-Chasing Pittsford Again 20-0

February 23, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

Chris Hodos is up for a challenge. In fact, he and his Pittsford girls basketball have been preparing for it for weeks.

The Wildcats on Thursday completed their fourth consecutive 20-0 regular season. Overall, they have won 75 consecutive games, just three shy of the MHSAA record in girls basketball.

If they are going to break the state consecutive wins record and take a third consecutive MHSAA championship trophy home to Hillsdale County next month, they are going to have to do it a rung higher on Michigan’s girls basketball ladder. The Wildcats are Class C this year after claiming Class D titles the last two seasons.

Hodos knows the road will be tougher. 

“I expected to go 20-0,” he said. “We lost two all-staters, and people saw that and figured there was no way we’d go 20-0 again. But, I knew what we had coming back.”

Chief among those returning Wildcats is 5-foot-7 senior guard Marissa Shaw, the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game – and something of a thief. The Jackson College signee has nearly 400 steals in her career.

“She set our school record with 15 steals in a game this year,” Hodos said. “She’s had two triple-doubles with points, steals and assists. She’s been in double figures in assists four times. She’s a real aggressive player.”

Shaw has been on the varsity since her freshman year, playing three minutes in the 2015 Class D Final loss to St. Ignace. That was the last time Pittsford lost a game. All five starters this year have played in multiple MHSAA championship games.

It’s likely no team in the state can match that type of big-game experience.

“All five of my starters have been on the team for three years,” Hodos said. “They’ve been to the Breslin Center through all of this. They know about what it takes to get there and what it’s like to play there. They all have experience. That’s something you can’t teach.”

The deep tournament runs have meant several more weeks of practice than a typical high schooler will play. Pittsford’s played 15 postseason games over the past two seasons alone.

That big-game experience probably played a hand in one of Pittsford’s biggest regular-season wins this year – a 68-56 win over Tri-County Conference champion Morenci. The Class D Bulldogs – who feature a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Mady Schmitz and Daelyn Merillat – were up 10 at halftime. Hodos made a defensive adjustment. and the comeback was on. Pittsford forged a tie at 44-44 going into the fourth quarter and outscored Morenci by 12 during the final eight minutes.

“They are so disciplined,” Morenci coach Larry Bruce said. “They are never out of position on defense. I watched the tape on them four or five times. The girls are never out of position. They made a really good adjustment at halftime, and their depth got to us. They are solid.”

Pittsford won the Southern Central Athletic Association East by six games, going 17-0 in league play. But, that’s all over now. It’s time for the MHSAA tournament. The last time Pittsford played in Class C was 2014-15 when it was erased in the District Final by Adrian Madison.

This year’s Class C tournament starts Monday for Pittsford when it goes on the road to play Clinton, the District host.

As the saying goes, the 101-1 record over the past 102 games is thrown out the window when the tournament starts.

“We’ll run into some good teams,” Hodos said. “I have probably four or five potential teams that we could play on film. I like breaking down film and staying up all night.”

If any potential opponents are staying up all night watching Pittsford on film, they’ll notice something very familiar about the Wildcats’ offense. It’s the same one Hodos has used for at least a decade.

“I run a Bill Self offense, a high-low game,” he said, referring to the Kansas men’s basketball coach. “I’ve ran that since I was a JV coach, and it’s worked. We run it every year. People say you have to change things up or run something different, but, why, if its works? 

"We get all kinds of different looks out of it, but that’s what it starts with. The girls know where to be. The repetition helps us. You see a lot of times where basketball players make bad passes. Often, it’s because they don’t know where someone is going to. They get lost in the play. We run the same thing. The girls know where each other will be.”

Besides Shaw, the other seniors for Pittsford are Hannah Patterson and Sydni Brunette, a 3-point sharpshooter. Junior Kennedy Chesney is a 53-percent field goal shooter averaging nearly eight points a game. Junior Alison Toner averages just under double figures. Hodos has three sophomores on the varsity, too.

“We do it more by committee this season,” he said. “We have a lot of girls contributing. That’s how I knew we’d be pretty good.”

Bruce, who’s coached off-and-on for 50 years, was impressed with what he saw in Pittsford last year and this season.

“They won’t embarrass themselves, I’m sure of that,” Bruce said. “People will have trouble with them. Shaw is really good, but after that there is no drop off for the next seven or eight girls. They all play well.”

Hodos is a Pittsford graduate who played football at Adrian College and returned to Hillsdale County to teach and coach. He currently works with students at the Hillsdale County Youth Home. He sometimes leans on his old college coach or other friends in the business for advice or just to talk about coaching. He’s been an assistant coach for more than 15 years with the Pittsford football team, running the defense.

“I try to get my knowledge from everywhere,” he said.

The record consecutive victory streak for boys basketball in Michigan ended this season when Powers North Central – winners of 84 straight – lost in December to Rapid River. The Jets’ is the longest streak in Michigan prep basketball history.

By beating Camden-Frontier on Thursday, Pittsford became tied with Flint Northern for second place on the all-time girls consecutive victory list with 75 straight wins. To tie Carney-Nadeau’s record of 78 straight, Pittsford will have to win the District. To break the record, they’ll have to win a Regional game.

That’s a long way off, but Hodos isn’t worried about it. He’s embracing it.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s something different. I’m excited about it. I like scheduling different teams every year. A couple of years ago we played a couple of Class A schools that I found that would play us. It’s exciting.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Pittsford’s Marissa Shaw brings the ball upcourt during last season’s Class D Semifinal win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Wildcats coach Chris Hodos talks things over with his team during the championship game victory against Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary. 

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.