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Posted on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

Dexter community rallies behind girls basketball team on one year anniversary of tornado

By Pete Cunningham


The Dexter student section stands in support of the girls basketball team at the MHSAA Class A girls basketball semifinals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on March 15. Dexter lost to Grosse Pointe South, 48-29.

Courtney Sacco |

EAST LANSING -- Exactly one year ago, the Dexter community huddled inside of schools, a car dealership, and their respective basements as a tornado ravaged through the town.

In the aftermath of the devastation, the community would come together in unprecedented fashion to rebuild from the devastation.

On Friday the community came together once again at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, not in fear or for charity, but for a much more positive rallying cry: the girls high school basketball team and its historic run to the MHSAA Class A state semifinals.

People don’t always offer a free place to stay or a hot meal to neighbors. Schools don't always double as a place where those without water to shower, but during the tornado this was all commonplace.

More Coverage: Game Story | Boxscore | Bracket | Photo Gallery | Live Chat Recap

Dexter's student section at girls basketball games is rarely filled, and the traveling contingent consists mostly of parents. But for the past three weeks of the girls basketball team’s unprecedented playoff run, full bleachers have shaken in support of the team, no matter where the games were being played.

“I’m just so proud to be part of the community as a parent as a teacher as a community member,” said Angie Scott, a physicaly education and health teacher at the high school. “During the lowest times when the tornado happened, everybody came together and during the highest of times to be able to support these young girls it’s just been a really cool experience.”

The clock finally struck midnight on the Dreadnaughts’ Cinderella story in a 48-29 loss to Grosse Pointe South on Friday, but it wasn’t for lack of support.


Dexter senior Emma Kill (14) hangs her head as she and her team walk off the court at the Breslin Center after a 48-29 loss to Grosse Pointe South.

Courtney Sacco |

“It’s been really amazing for us to have the community come out and support us,” said Emma Kill, her eyes still red from tears of disappointment after the game. “At our school, girls basketball wasn’t that big of a deal, but as of the last couple of weeks it’s really been a huge thing.”

“The community’s really come together to support us and it’s meant the world to us.”

Kill was one of five seniors to wear a Dreadnaught uniform for the last time on Friday. While she and her teammates would trade anything for one more game, the fans in the stands were appreciative what the team already gave them.

“Win or lose it doesn’t matter we all love them,” said lifetime Dexter resident Louie Ceriani.

Ceriani, 86, said he’s been at nearly every home game not just this season, but since he graduated from Dexter in 1948. This was the first time his loyal fandom got him a trip to the state semifinals in all those 86 years.

Before every game this season he’d make up trash talk and tell the girls it was what the other team was saying about them in the locker room. It was his special way of motivating them.

The girls would smile, and shake their heads and give him a fist-bump on the way to the court.


Louie Ceriani, 86, cheers on Dexter during its 48-29 loss to Grosse Pointe South at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Courtney Sacco |

During the unlikely postseason run, Ceriani changed it up. He still offered the fist-bumps, but switched from a joking tone to a serious one when he addressed the team with just one word.


Win they did, until Friday that is, when Cierra Rice’s slashing moves to the basket seemed as unstoppable as the tornado, and Grosse Pointe South’s defensive press just as unforgiving.

But when the seniors were called off the floor one last time, Ceriani stood tall to lead the community in one last standing ovation.

“Dexter, it’s small but it’s mighty. Like after the tornado everybody was out helping pick up in the neighborhoods and everything,” said McKenzie Svihra. “Having our whole school come here and everybody’s parents and parents friends from other schools, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Dexter coach Mike Bavineau got choked up when asked about what the five seniors he’d say goodbye to meant to him and to the program. From here, he’ll have to start over with a new group.

He’ll have to rebuild.

He’s in the right place.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Shawn Letwin

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

@shephard145...not sure how many were talking about the "...notion that losing generates a life lesson about the joys of being a loser is teaching broader lessons to the kids". I certainly wasn't I for one was speaking of lessons learned and won; better summed up in quotes such as... -Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts -When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps -Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. -The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand -Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose -Win or lose, do it fairly Enjoy, take care and be well.

Shawn Letwin

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

@shephard145. You are right about the article not being for someone who seriously follows sports. The headline should have clued you in from the get go... Don't sweat the hate rhetoric from Dexter...some of them take themselves too seriously. Why just look at the photo...most of the Dexter crowd is really behind the team...the body language of the few says it all about them. There are tremendous story lines for each and every one of these young ladies who have participated on the court at the highest level in high school competition and now walked off the court for the last time, soon to walk down the aisle of graduation and move forward to make their mark in the world. Well done ladies. As for the those at Dexter who apologize on the behalf of others, wow! Where was the apology on why the graduation rate dropped over a 5 year period, or explaining how the district wasted 700k annually in high school scheduling inefficiencies, or after the administration abandoned sports by expecting high school athletic sports to generate revenue to be self-supporting all the while during that same time the AD position has been a revolving door, or apologize for how academic expectations for former and current students were hobbled by switching from semesters to trimesters and back to semesters in less than 5 years. But soon the district will have to explain why they will have a million dollar deficit this year, will also need to draw down the reserves by almost two million dollars this year and at the very latest, the district will have no reserves in 3 years and be operating in a deficit. Hopefully that story will be told. This story spoke of a group of girls who stepped on to the court against many odds and left the court as young women after winning one of the greatest lessons of their life and the chance to win so many more! These young lady Dreadnaughts truly represented the Dexter Difference! Go Dreads!


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

I also have to say's coverage was excellent throughout Dexter's and Manchester's run to Breslin. The last few articles especially found all of the positives in Dexter's experience, yet gave the facts of the game. Grosse Pointe South played a great game and nobody can deny that. These are high school kids we are talking about and there is way more to learn from these experiences than the outcome of the games. writers brought that out.

Kyle Austin

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

Thanks, AAfan, it was a great run to cover. Not sure I'll ever get to see a shot quite like Riley McDonald's regional final one ever again...


Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

I have lived in the Dexter community for 18 years. This is a town of caring, hard working individuals who come together and support their own no matter what the circumstances are. I am thankful to be a part of it. I can't think of a better town to have raised our 3 kids. Maybe you should join us, you sound pretty bitter.

Nick Danger

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

Thank you Dexter womens basketball team,a class act our community can be proud of.You are the champions!

Pete Cunningham

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 4:29 a.m.

You're making us all blush. Thanks for the feedback.

Claude Kershner

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

The coverage of the Dexter and Manchester Girl's basketball run through the post season has been outstanding. Capturing the community spirit and weaving the story off the court highlighting relationships between players and coaches, fans and the student body has been a delight to read. Nice job!

Kyle Austin

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

Thanks Claude. I watched the two teams play each other back in December, and while I knew I was watching two solid teams, not sure I could have predicted they'd both be playing in East Lansing. Remarkable runs for both.