Eaton Rapids Adds to History-Making Run

March 14, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Bailey Baker plans to graduate from Eaton Rapids this spring with 16 varsity letters won in four sports. Like others on her basketball team, she’s had plenty of success on others as well.

But there’s something special about what the Greyhounds have accomplished this week during the longest run in school hoops history.

Eaton Rapids played in its first Class B Semifinal on Friday, and will try for its first MHSAA championship Saturday night after downing reigning runner-up and No. 9-ranked Flint Powers Catholic 46-36 at the Breslin Center.

The Greyhounds – an honorable mention in the final Associated Press Class B poll – have eliminated three top-10 teams during the tournament, including also No. 6 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in the Quarterfinal and No. 9 Olivet in the District Final. And they continued another impressive postseason streak as well – they’ve beaten all of their playoff opponents by at least 10 points.

 “We all have side sports, but this is the one we’re all together,” said Baker, who also next weekend will receive an MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award. “We’ve wanted this forever, and to finally have this opportunity is amazing.

“Win or lose, it’s going to be my favorite high school memory.”

Eaton Rapids can make this historical run even sweeter by getting past top-ranked and undefeated Grand Rapids South Christian in the Final at 6 p.m. Saturday.

It’s unwise to count the Greyhounds (22-5) out.

They’ve had strong teams during coach Willis Whitmyer’s 15 seasons, but the best usually ran into frequent championship contenders DeWitt, Portland or others down the road.

Eaton Rapids also is playing with some emotional edge. All five starters are seniors, and there are eight total.  Whitmyer said longtime assistant Richard Stoken will be leaving the program after 13 seasons, and Whitmyer said he’s also not sure if he’ll be back next winter.

“We’ve had five teams I thought could’ve gotten here in my tenure, but we found some way to screw it up or the other team took it from us,” Whitmyer said. “This is huge for us. It’s huge for the community. They’re wrapped up in it, and they should be. They’re a huge part of it.”

The latest stunning performance began with a 14-2 run during Friday’s first five minutes. The Greyhounds carried an eight-point lead into the final three minutes of the first half.

But Powers was not to go that quietly, especially with a lineup filled with contributors from last season’s championship game run. The Chargers (23-3) gained a one-point lead heading into the final minute of the third quarter.

It was short-lived. Eaton Rapids senior center Allie Ditmer scored at the buzzer to give the Greyhounds back the advantage, and they never trailed again.

“We battled back, but I think we started to run out of gas a little bit. I think battling back took a toll on us,” Powers coach Thom Staudacher said.

“It definitely hurts. We’re usually on the other end of the stick.”

Eaton Rapids kept Powers’ trio of senior leading scorers to 19 points, down from their combined average of 33 per game. The Greyhounds also outrebounded the Chargers 38-22, thanks in large part to Dittmer’s 14 boards to go with a game-high 15 points.

Baker provided another little surprise as well. A 54-percent free-throw shooter, she connected on 11 of 12 attempts for the majority of her 13 total points.

“Just being a senior, and with how much we wanted it this year, rather than getting me more nervous it made me more calm,” Baker said of going to the line. “I should be taking those free throws. I’m a senior now. I need to have that leadership.”

Powers will graduate six seniors who helped return the program to the state’s elite. Sara Ruhstorfer and sophomore Francesca Coury led Friday with eight points, while senior Michela Coury had 10 rebounds.

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Eaton Rapids’ Bailey Baker pushes past Powers’ Michela Coury during Friday’s Semifinal. (Middle) Coury makes her way to the basket despite being defended closely.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Flint Powers trailed Eaton Rapids from the beginning of the game until Ally Haran makes a midcourt steal and converts it into a basket to tie the score at 26-26. (2) After her team fell behind in the final minute of the third quarter, Eaton Rapids' Allie Dittmer scores at the buzzer to put the Greyhounds on top to stay against Flint Powers.

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.