Eaton Rapids coach Willis Whitmyer gambled.
Star center Allie Dittmer was wreaking havoc on the Grand Rapids South Christian defense, but she picked up her fourth foul with more than four minutes left in the fourth quarter of tonight’s Class B championship game.
He decided to sit his 6-foot-1 center, and seconds later Cassidy Vredevoogd scored inside to trim the Greyhounds’ lead to 39-35.
After a TV time-out, Whitmyer re-inserted Dittmer. The move worked as Dittmer stayed foul-free and the Greyhounds (23-5) won their first state girls basketball title with a 51-38 victory.
Dittmer led the winners with 26 points and 13 rebounds as she dominated play inside, making nine of 15 field goal attempts.
“I just tried to be smart about it,” Dittmer said of her foul situation. “I kept working hard, but I knew I had to be careful because it was late in the game.”
The Greyhounds went on a 12-3 run after Dittmer’s fourth foul.
“We were going back and forth about putting her back in,” said Whitmyer. “My assistant coach wanted to put her in. I wanted to be careful because we could hide her in our matchup zone. I don’t think she has ever fouled out of a game. We trust her.
“This was a long time coming. We thought we had the talent to do it last year, but we made too many mistakes. We learned our lesson.
“We tell them 1,000 times to get the ball inside. We rode her (Dittmer) to victory.”
Renee Broekhuizen led South Christian (26-1) with 13 points.
“They made some key buckets,” said Sailors coach James De Bruyn. “We tried to get the ball inside to Cassidy. We got stuck in the corners and we struggled that way. Their zone didn’t allow us to get good shots.
“We tried to front her (Dittmer), but she just got to the basket too often. At times we forgot to box her out.”
After going almost seven minutes without scoring, the Sailors managed a 7-7 tie after one quarter on a triple by Taryn Sack. Their point total then matched the number of turnovers they committed.
Broekhuizen launched an NBA three in the second quarter that started a personal 5-0 run that gave the Sailors a 12-7 lead.
But then Dittmer started going to work inside for Eaton Rapids. She scored nine straight points and gave the Greyhounds a 19-16 halftime lead after she completed a three-point play and converted a rebound basket just before the buzzer.
“Good passing led to open shots,” said Dittmer.
Vredevoogd, the Sailors best inside player and the best line of defense against Dittmer, picked up her third foul with 5:30 left in the third quarter and had to sit.
Guard Morgan Torres picked up her third two minutes later and followed Vredevoogd to the bench.
The Greyhounds started pulling away, 28-20, on a triple by Kathryn Mills and three points by Dittmer, all on free throws.
Broekhuizen ended the drought with a jump shot, and a fast-break layup by Markayla Vander got the Sailors to within four.
Eaton Rapids scored the final three points of the third on a free throw by Mills and lay-up by Dittmer to extend the lead to seven, 31-24.
Twice the Sailors trailed by 10 in the fourth but responded with triples from Sack and Broekhuizen to close the gap to 37-33.