Unranked Eaton Rapids Ends on Top in B

March 15, 2014

By Tom Kendra
Special to Second Half

EAST LANSING - Dittmer was the difference.

Grand Rapids South Christian came into Saturday's MHSAA Class B championship game ranked No. 1 and with a 26-game winning streak. But the Sailors had never faced an inside force like 6-foot-1 senior post player Allie Dittmer of Eaton Rapids.

"We tried our best to stop her," said South Christian coach Jim De Bruyn, "but she was just a horse in there."

Dittmer dominated the interior, scoring 26 points on 9 of 15 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds to lead unheralded Eaton Rapids to its first-ever MHSAA girls basketball title in a convincing 51-38 upset of South Christian in Saturday's finale at the Breslin Center.

The Greyhounds (23-5) came into the MHSAA tournament as an honorable mention in the final Associated Press regular-season poll, but relied on five senior starters to knock off No. 6 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in the Quarterfinals, No. 8 Flint Powers in Friday's Semifinal and then top-ranked South Christian in Saturday's Final.

"I told the girls before the game that we don't need to be perfect, we just need to be us," said 15th-year Eaton Rapids coach Willis Whitmyer. "I'm not the smartest guy here, but I'm smart enough to know when I have a good inside player. Everyone on this team has heard it 1,000 times from me: 'Get the ball inside to Allie.'"

Dittmer, who will play next year at Hillsdale College, scored two points in the first quarter as both teams struggled out of the gate. The quarter ended in a 7-7 tie.

But Dittmer came alive with nine points in the second quarter as the Greyhounds inched ahead to a 19-16 halftime lead, and it appeared that the second half would be a down-to-the-wire fight.

However, buoyed by a raucous, maroon-clad crowd chanting "We are, E.R.!," Eaton Rapids used its zone defense to stymie the Sailors' comeback attempt.

While the defense was doing its part, Dittmer got back to work on the block, scoring five points in the third quarter and then tallying 10 in the fourth (despite picking up her fourth foul with 4:35 remaining and having to sit for stretches) as the Greyhounds pulled away.

"I’ve got to give credit to my teammates; they worked it around and made it easy on me," said Dittmer, who garnered honorable mention status on the Associated Press Class B all-state team announced this week. "This win means so much to all of us.”

As Dittmer began to demand more and more attention from the Sailors, it began to open up shooting opportunities and driving lanes for the Eaton Rapids guards.

The Greyhounds were 18 of 26 from the free-throw line, compared to just 3 of 6 for South Christian. Senior guard Kathryn Mills was the only other Eaton Rapids player in double figures scoring with 11 points, including a game-clinching 3-pointer right in front of her school's delirious student section with 1:35 remaining that gave the Greyhounds an insurmountable 48-37 lead.

"It was about time, was the way I looked at it," said Mills, one of those five senior starters. "I had a rough start, but that's the way a lot of our games went this year. We got more open looks at the end because the other team is focused on stopping Allie."

South Christian 5-11 senior Renee Broekhuizen, who battled Dittmer inside all night, was the lone Sailors player in double figures, with 13 points. Broekhuizen buried back-to-back 3-pointers to pull her team to within 37-33 with 5:15 remaining in the game, but the Sailors were outscored 14-5 the rest of the way.

Dittmer scored four points during the final run, and senior guard Meghan Dassance scored five of her six during that stretch.

"She's a great player, and she has a strong body," Broekhuizen said of Dittmer. "We never gave up, we were relentless and we refused to lose. But it just wasn't our night."

South Christian (26-1) lost for the first time since last year's Semifinals at the Breslin. It was the Sailors' third appearance in a girls basketball title game, as they won the 1988 Class B championship and finished as the 1980 Class C runners-up.

Cassidy Vredevoogd blocked five shots and added six points and five rebounds for South Christian. Morgan Torres had a team-high six rebounds, and Broekhuizen added three steals.

"It's not what we planned on, but here we are," said De Bruyn, who has won 441 games in 25 years as South Christian's coach. "We struggled against their zone and couldn't seem to get many good, open shots."

The Sailors connected on just 15 of 46 shots (32.6 percent), were not able to get to the free-throw line much and were out rebounded 34-24.

Five points from Emily Reinecke and six rebounds and five assists from Bailey Baker also boosted Eaton Rapids, which placed second in the Capital Area Activities Conference Gold.

But Whitmyer felt another force during Saturday's game, especially in the second half, which he felt made a big difference in turning things in his team's favor.

"I thought our fans were unbelievable," said Whitmyer, whose team won all eight of its tournament games by at least 10 points. "I looked out there, and I thought we owned the Breslin. Our support system throughout the school and the community was really something else, and that makes this even more special."

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Eaton Rapids' Meghan Dassance works to get past South Christian's Renee Broekhuizen in the Class B Final. (Middle) Greyhounds guard Kathryn Mills launches a shot in front of her team's bench Saturday.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Allie Dittmer led all scorers with 26 points and all rebounders with 13. Here she scores on a putback just before halftime to give Eaton Rapids a 19-16 lead. (2) Renee Broekhuizen led South Christian in scoring with 13. Here's a 3-pointer she hit early in the game.

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.