By DOUG DONNELLY
Whiteford boys basketball coach John Rice has 499 career victories – 447 of them coming as coach of the Bobcats. He will shoot for No. 500 Tuesday when the Bobcats play at Summerfield.
Rice took over the Bobcat program from Mel Hartsel at the start of the 1973-74 season and coached for the next 30 seasons, retiring in 2002-03. He came back three years ago. He has 447 wins at Whiteford, 26 at Danville (Ohio), 13 at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, nine at Toledo Bowsher and four at Flat Rock.
Of those 447 all-time victories, here’s my ranking of the Top 20 wins during Coach Rice’s 33 seasons at Whiteford:
- Whiteford 71, Morenci 61 (1986-87): Morenci was 15-0, the last unbeaten team in Class C and ranked No. 5 in the state when the Bobcats dropped them 71-61 at Whiteford in a tense, action-packed game. Between the two teams, an incredible 12 players that would receive All-TCC mention in their careers were on the floor. The Bulldogs had beaten the Bobcats 81-48 a month earlier but this one was different from the opening tip. Matt Waterford opened the game with a turnaround jumper to get the Bobcats rolling. Brad Nieman had 19 points to lead the Bobcats, who went 18-5 and shared the league title with the Bulldogs. Morenci would finish the season 21-2.
- Whiteford 53, Blissfield 51 (2002-03): The Bobcats trailed by five with 1:39 remaining in the game. Anthony Miracola hit a 3-pointer and Joe Gust hit a jumper with :43 to tie the game. With the clock winding down, Miracola found Gust breaking to the basket for the game-winning layup and a thrilling District win. It was the first time the Bobcats had ever beaten an LCAA champion and the Royals finished 18-3. And, more than 2,000 people saw the game in a sold-out Summerfield gymnasium.
- Whiteford 53, Madison 38 (1977-78): In the mid-1970s, the Madison-Whiteford rivalry was among the best in the TCC. Madison (18-5 on the season) was ranked No. 9 in Class D when the Bobcats beat them by 15.
- Whiteford 36, Deerfield 35 (1985-86): The Bobcats won a District championship with this win on a last-second, 22-foot jump shot by sophomore Brad Nieman. The lasting importance is probably what makes the win so special. The shot helped launch Nieman to All-State status two years later and the Bobcats would go on to consecutive seasons of 18-5, 18-5 and 19-3 with many of the same players.
- Whiteford 60, Sand Creek 57 (1992-93): Another last second victory, this one was won by a 3-pointer by Jim Butz at the buzzer. The Aggies went on to a 22-2 record, losing next in the Class C Regional final.
- Whiteford 63, Lenawee Christian 49 (2002-03): The game was sold out before the JV game was complete and the crowd was treated to a Whiteford win. Lenawee Christian entered the game state-ranked and would go on to win 20 games and finish as the No. 4 ranked team in Class D.
- Whiteford 62, Dundee 52 (1980-81): The Bobcats struggled through a 5-16 season but upset the Vikings, who won 17 games on the year. Coach John Rice called it his biggest win at Whiteford at the time.
- Whiteford 55, Camden Frontier 53 (1985-86): Whiteford’s first Regional win came against the Redskins, who entered the game 20-2. Kent Waterford and Khris Shively keyed this upset. It was the 10th and final win of the season for Whiteford, who lost to No. 4 ranked Concord two nights later to end the season.
- Whiteford 72, Summerfield 71 (1988-89): In one of the biggest pressure situations in school history, Chris DuPree made a pair of free throws with :00 left on the clock as the Bobcats came back from 16 points down with five minutes left in regulation to win in overtime at Summerfield.
- Whiteford 65, Sand Creek 63 (1993-94): Weeks before the game, Coach Rice told Monroe Evening News sports editor Ron Montri that he guaranteed a victory the next time the two teams met. The Aggies finished the season 18-4 and won the TCC. However, Brad Strahan scored 25 points and blocked a shot of a layup attempt at the buzzer by Sand Creek, making the prediction stand up.
- Whiteford 72, Summerfield 68 (1991-92): John Maigret made only one 3-pointer in his career but it was huge. The play was designed by Coach Rice in the huddle with less than five seconds on the clock and the 6-5 center drained the biggest shot of his career to tie the game and send the game into overtime.
12-13. Whiteford 88, Morenci 82; Whiteford 87, Morenci 84 (1987-88): Morenci went 20-4 but lost twice to Whiteford, both barn-burners. The game featured two high-scoring teams and matched Rice against Morenci coach Larry Bruce with two of the best teams the TCC has ever seen.
- Whiteford 65, Sand Creek 63 (1982-83): The Bobcats went 20-2 on the season. One of its biggest wins was this comeback thriller over the Aggies, capped off with a buzzer-beater by Everett DuPree.
15-16. Whiteford 75, Sand Creek 64; Whiteford 71, Sand Creek 69 (1977-78): This was one of Whiteford’s most talented teams ever and it showed with a number of huge wins. The Aggies were state-ranked, won 19 games and a District title, but lost both regular season tilts to Whiteford.
- Whiteford 107, Morenci 51 (1978-79): Whiteford played a brutal non-league schedule this season, playing non-league tilts against the likes of Bedford, Toledo Devilbiss, Clinton, Hudson, Ottawa Hills and Morenci. In this matchup, it was a dunk by Glenn Green which sent Whiteford over the 100-point mark for the first time in school history in one of its most impressive offensive performances in school history.
- Whiteford 65, Napoleon 51 (1980-81): The box score is the most significant thing about this victory. Three Bobcats reached double figures in scoring that night — Gary Carter (14), Brad Stevens (14) and Everett DuPree (13). Remarkably, all three were freshmen. The trio would go on to combine for 2,897 career points and ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 in school history when their careers ended.
- Whiteford 51, Deerfield 50 (1975-76): Coach Rice’s first District crown was secured when Elmer Fox hit a pair of free throws with :09 remaining.
- Whiteford 104, Whitmore Lake 56 (1997-98): The Bobcat fans who made the long trip to Whitmore Lake were treated to an incredible 50-point effort by two-time All-Stater Eddie Sharpe. Sharpe scored 22 points in only four minutes of the fourth quarter before exiting the game.