Renaissance, Davis Show Earn Encore Performance

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

April 7, 2021

EAST LANSING – For those who may have had something else going on Wednesday afternoon, don’t worry, there will be one more chance to catch the “Kailee Davis Show.”

The Detroit Renaissance senior put her talents on display at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, scoring seven points in a span of 21 seconds late in the game to help her team defeat Wayne Memorial,75-72, in a Division 1 Semifinal. 

“It was just about not giving up,” said Davis, who finished with a game-high 33 points in her team’s victory. “I believe in my teammates, and they believe in me. Once they told me to go, I just wanted to win this for them.”

With her team trailing 69-64 with just over two minutes to play, Davis calmly hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points. She then picked up a steal and converted a layup to tie the game at 69-69. Davis topped it off with another steal of the ensuing in-bounds pass and was fouled, converting a pair of free throws to give her team its first lead since early in the third period.

“(Kailee) challenged me on something, when I said ‘She hasn’t been getting to that steal like she did last year,’” Renaissance head coach Shane Lawal said. “I felt like she stepped up today. She told me to shut up. She went out and got two or three of those at the end of the game. That’s all I ever want to do, is challenge my kids, to be the best that they can be.”

Davis finished with 19 points in the fourth quarter alone. She scored 10 of her team’s 12 points during an early stretch of the fourth which cut Wayne Memorial’s 11-point lead down to three. The Zebras (17-3) would stretch the lead back to seven points before Davis and her teammates made the late push to earn a spot in Friday’s Division 1 championship game.

“(Davis) is an absolutely amazing player,” Wayne Memorial head coach Jarvis Mitchell said. “She absolutely willed them to win. She made some tough shots. We tried to make her work as much as possible, but at the end of the day, when a kid is resilient and they want to win … it wasn’t that my kids didn’t want to win, I just think she wanted to win a little bit more.”

2021 D1 Girls Basketball Semifinal - Detroit Renaissance

Davis’s performance overshadowed what was a tremendous game by Wayne Memorial seniors Alanna Micheaux and LaChelle Austin. Micheaux, who will be playing basketball for the University of Minnesota next year, finished with 29 points and 17 rebounds. Austin had 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Zebras. They combined for 29 points in the second and third quarters, when their team turned a 13-point deficit into a nine-point lead.

“Alanna Micheaux, I’m a huge fan of hers,” Lawal said after the game. “Her ceiling is only (going) up. And Austin is going to have a great career in the MAC (at Eastern Michigan). Shout out to those two great seniors.”

Renaissance got off to a hot start against the Zebras. The Phoenix opened the game by scoring nine of the first 12 points, fueled by a corner 3-pointer and steal and drive to the basket by senior Mikyah Finley. The Phoenix finished the quarter on a 10-0 run, thanks to three 3-pointers, two by Finley and one by Davis, in the final two minutes to take a 21-8 lead.

Finley finished the game with 18 points. Senior Shannon Wheeler added 10 points for Renaissance (13-4). 

“They played an absolutely amazing game,” Mitchell said of the Phoenix. “They have some absolutely tough kids. They deserved to win. It’s hard to stop a team with resilience. Renaissance never gave in to emotion. They just continued to go fight. And when we thought we had them, they just kept plugging and plugging. And that was the basketball game.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Renaissance's Kailee Davis launches a shot while leading her team to a Division 1 Semifinal win Wednesday. (Middle) Wayne Memorial's LaChelle Austin gets to the basket. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.