By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Whiteford’s girls basketball team picked up one of its biggest victories in years Thursday, beating TCC champion Morenci, 54-40.
The Bobcats dominated the Bulldogs on the boards, while stifling the Bulldog shooters that scored 79 points against Whiteford just six days ago. The Bobcat shut out Morenci in the third quarter.
“We played our best defensive game of the year,” Whiteford head coach Les Manley said.
The Bobcats improved to 12-6 overall and 9-3 in the TCC with the win.
Whiteford jumped out to the early lead, going up 11-7 and later 15-9. Lauren Walker made a driving layup to give the Bobcats a 20-11 lead at the end of the quarter but Morenci’s McKenna Shaffer nailed a 3-pointer early in the second period to pull the Bulldogs within 20-14, but the Bobcats began to pull away. Maddison Eipperle hit two consecutive buckets off offensive rebounds to give Whiteford a 31-22 lead, then hit a free throw with 2:26 left in the half to give the Bobcats a 34-22 lead.
Whiteford went into the halftime with a 34-23 lead and held Morenci scoreless in the third quarter to lead 43-23 heading into the fourth quarter where the Bobcats gave up 17 points to Morenci, but didn’t allow the Bulldogs to climb back into the game. Morenci went nearly 10 minutes without scoring, breaking the drought on a steal and layup by Mady Schmitz with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight,” Morenci coach Larry Bruce said. “But, Whiteford did a nice job. The Baldwin girl played very well, so did No. 15 (Eipperle). She was tough on the boards.”
Baldwin scored 29 points to lead the Bobcats in an outstanding effort. She made three 3-pointers to tie the single season Whiteford record for triples. She has 35 on the season, same as Janie Bunge did for the Bobcats in 2014-15.
Eipperle scored nine points and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Bobcats. “She had a great game,” Manley said.
Lindsey Walker added 11 rebounds to go with her eight points, four assists and three blocked shots. The Bobcats outrebounded Morenci 45-39.
The Bulldogs average about 54 points a game on offense, but were held well below that mark Thursday.
Morenci’s Daelyn Merillat scored 14 and Schmitz 12. The duo combined for 48 points in Morenci’s win over Whiteford on Saturday.
Morenci fell to 14-3 overall and 12-1 in the TCC. The Bulldogs have already clinched the outright TCC title.
Whiteford remains tied for second place in the league with a 10-3 record along with Madison, 50-33 winners over Summerfield Thursday. Britton Deerfield, who beat Whitmore Lake 41-27 Thursday, is 9-4. The Bobcats play at Sand Creek next week to close out the TCC season and Dundee on February 20 to conclude the regular season.
Whiteford 54, Morenci 40
Shaffer 3(3) 0-0 9, Keller 0 1-4 1, Merillat 2(1) 7-9 12, Dominque 0 2-4 2, Schmitz 5 4-10 14, Spradlin 1 0-0 2. Totals 11(4) 14-27 40.
Baldwin 8(3) 10-13 29, Lindsey Walker 3 2-5 8, Taylor 0 2-2 2, Thomas 0 1-2 1, Eipperle 4 1-6 9, Lauren Walker 2 1-4 5. Totals 17(3) 17-32 54.
MORENCI 11 12 0 17 – 40
WHITEFORD 20 15 8 11 – 54
Total fouls – Morenci 24, Whiteford 32. Fouled out – Dominque, Schmitz, Lauren Walker. Technical fouls – None.