Performance: Alpena's Chris DeRocher

February 1, 2019

Chris DeRocher
Alpena senior - Basketball

Alpena’s 6-foot-5 four-year varsity forward scored 29 points in last week’s 74-45 win over Sault Ste. Marie – and on the 29th point broke his school’s career scoring record on the way to earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” 

DeRocher surpassed the record previously set in 1972 by Butch Feher, who went on to play at Vanderbilt University and for a season with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. DeRocher sank a fourth-quarter free throw to lock up the record at 1,436 points, and he added 26 more to his running total in Thursday’s 70-55 win over Gaylord after entering the night averaging 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and three assists per game this season. The Gaylord victory put the Wildcats at 11-2 after the team won five games his freshman season and nine games apiece the last two winters.  

It’s been a record-setting school year for Alpena’s senior class: In addition to DeRocher’s milestone, Aidan Day set the school’s career soccer goals record, Logan Guthrie became its all-time leading career football rusher and hockey goalie Cooper Black now owns Alpena’s single-season shutout record on the ice. DeRocher also played baseball – he pitches and plays first base – and carries a 3.7 GPA. He’s unsure where he’ll attend college, but he aims to continue playing basketball and study business.

Coach John Pintar said: “I have been fortunate to have a great seat every night to watch Chris develop the last four years as both a player and a person. As a coach, you always want to see each player reach their peak potential, and Chris has certainly done that. He has started every game for us since his freshmen year. He came into the program right after we had graduated a senior class that had won two conference titles and went 41-5. There was a void in the program, and Chris was able to step right in as a freshman and instantly become a key player on the team that we could count on every night. … Any great player will tell you that winning as a team is why they play, not their statistics, and Chris has always embodied that belief. His number one goal is always the success of the team and not scoring records. The scoring has always happened within the team framework of our offense and his desire for team success. … This achievement didn't happen by accident; he has truly put in the time and effort to get to this point. He has had great support from his family and teammates along the way and I'm sure he would be the first to tell you that this couldn't have happened without them and their support. Chris has great character and is an excellent student. He has always represented himself and our school with class. I am extremely proud of what he has done and expect him to continue doing great things the rest of the season and in the future.”   

Performance Point: “It was amazing, just all of the people there,” DeRocher recalled of last week’s record-setting night. “After I made that free throw, and hugging my teammates, and hugging my coaches that I've been with for four years, it was just really amazing to think about breaking a 47-year record. … Last year when I hit the 1,000-point mark, it was like, ‘All right, so if I do what I have the past two years, I should be able to do this.’ It was never something that I went out and tried to do. If it came, it came. I just went into every game trying to play the best I could for our team, and I ended up being able to do it.”

4-year varsity education: “I think I’ve just learned to not force every shot. I’ve tried to get more people more involved. Because I’ve learned if I get my teammates more involved it’s going to draw people away from me, and it’s going to be easier to get points. Just learning the game, learning defenders (and) how they play me, improving my shooting.”

Our time to shine: “The past couple years we’ve gone through some struggles. We didn’t really have that many people ahead of us, so that wasn’t always the best thing. For two years (2015-16 and 2016-17), we only graduated two seniors. Now we’re up to our grade, and we’re showing that once you get a good group together and you have a strong core, it really does help and it really does win games. We’ve learned so much the last few years – most of our starters have started since sophomore year. It’s really showed, how well we’ve played together and how much we know each other and the chemistry we’ve had.”

Super seniors: “We have a really, really strong class, and a lot of kids are going good places. To be able to be that class that breaks all those records is really cool. You always want to win; you want to show these other schools you really are something. Our grade was always pretty good. … We’re all pretty good friends with each other, and we’re always rooting for each other.” 

Putting down roots: “My family owns a couple of businesses in Alpena, so I’ll probably go into that. I’ll end up coming back home. I like it here, I like everything it has to offer. … I like the area and I want to stay here.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

January 24: Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Alpena's Chris DeRocher follows through on a free-throw attempt during last week's win over Sault Ste. Marie. (Middle) DeRocher controls a loose ball in the lane. (Photos by Sports in Motion.)

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.