By DOUG DONNELLY
BLISSFIELD – An 18-0 run in the second half helped the Whiteford Bobcats pull away from the Summerfield Bulldogs, 65-47, and advance to Friday’s Class C District final at Blissfield High School.
The Bobcats were clinging to a 38-34 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter when the run started with a Jared Fink 3-pointer. Hunter Lake added a pair of free throws with 34 seconds left in the quarter giving Whiteford a 47-38 cushion heading into the final period.
The lead swelled quickly, first on a pair of free throws by Antonio DiTerlizzi, then a free throw and field goal from Lake. Fink and Thomas Eitniear hit field goals and Lake dumped in two more free throws as the Bobcats turned a four-point game into a 60-38 advantage. The Bulldogs didn’t score in the fourth quarter until three minutes were left.
“Our delay game helped give us some separation,” said Bobcat coach John Rice, in his 33rd season of coaching the Bobcats. “We knew they had to foul us. Our kids did a nice job of handling the ball, driving and getting to the free throw line.”
Whiteford started its delay game early in the fourth quarter after starter Cameron Iott picked up his fourth foul. Lake was the key ball handler down the stretch. The Bulldogs hit two late 3-pointers to close the gap, but the Bobcat lead was insurmountable by then.
The game was tight throughout the first 22 minutes of intense action. Both schools brought a large contingent of fans to the Blissfield gymnasium for the second game of the night Wednesday.
DiTerlizzi and Joel Breeding exchanged dunks that ignited both crowds and the Bulldogs made seven 3-pointers to keep the game close.
Fink led all scorers with 21 points, including three 3-pointers and a couple of shifty drives to the hole. Lake added 14 and Eitniear 12. Summerfield’s Breeding finished with 15 points and sophomore Brandon Dafoe 10.
The Bobcats started four seniors and a junior while Summerfield started three sophomores and two juniors.
Whiteford advances to Friday’s district final to take on undefeated Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. The Falcons beat Erie Mason in Wednesday’s first game and were the No. 1 ranked team in Class C entering the state tournament.
The Bobcats won for the 18th time on the season, improving to 18-2.
It’s the ninth time in Rice’s 33 seasons at Whiteford that the Bobcats have won at least 18 games in a season. He has a career mark of 458-264 at Whiteford and 510-351 overall in 40 years of coaching varsity boys basketball. His career winning percentage at Whiteford is higher than any other boys basketball coach in school history.
CLASS C AT BLISSFIELD
Fink 7(3) 4-4 21, Iott 3 0-0 6, Lake 3 8-12 14, DiTerlizzi 1 3-4 5, Eitniear 6 0-3 12, Badenhop 1(1) 1-2 4, Taylor 1 0-0 2, Marchant 0 1-2 1. Totals 22(4) 17-27 65.
Dafoe 3(3) 1-2 10, Zeipekis 0 4-5 4, Keller 2 0-0 4, Parker 1(1) 0-0 3, J. Breeding 5(2) 3-4 15, Smith 1 0-0 2, Cunningham 1 4-6 6, Vigliotti 1(1) 0-0 3. Totals 14(7) 12-16
WHITEFORD 17 16 14 18 – 65
S’FIELD 12 16 10 9 – 47
Total fouls – Whiteford 13, Summerfield 20. Fouled out – Dafoe. Technical fouls – Clark, Sum. 2, ejected.