Whiteford’s boys basketball season came to a close Friday night against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, but not before the Bobcats put some bruises on the No. 1 ranked team in the state.
SMCC won 56-44. But, the Bobcats held a halftime lead, led by as many as six early in the quarter and didn’t give up the lead until 3:35 was left in the third quarter. It was a gutty performance from the Bobcats, who came into the season on the second-longest win streak in school history at 15 wins.
“Turnovers,” said Whiteford coach John Rice when explaining the loss. “We had too many turnovers. We could have built on our lead, but we turned the ball over too much. Plus, there kids came out in the second half, when we had the lead, and hit some big shots.
“We had a chance. That’s all you can ask for.”
The Blissfield gym was packed on both sides and the game they saw was intense and back-and-forth for the first 20 minutes.
SMCC led 11-10 after the first quarter, but Whiteford tied the game at 13-13 on a Cameron Iott three-pointer with 5:16 left in the second quarter and took a 19-16 lead on back-to-back Thomas Eitniear buckets.
SMCC went up 22-19 but the Bobcats battled back with six points in the final 50 seconds of the first half to go into the locker room leading by three against the Falcons.
“We felt pretty good about the first half,” Rice said. “But, we knew they would come out and try and get the ball inside in the second half. Then, their guard hit those threes. Credit them for making that comeback.”
Eitniear gave Whiteford its biggest lead of the game at 28-22 with 7:38 left in the third quarter when SMCC point guard Hunter Kegley drained two straight triples to tie the game. Eitniear hit another 3-pointer and Iott scored again to make it 33-30 when the Falcons went on a 13-0 run to close the quarter and began to pull away. In the third quarter, the Falcons outscored Whiteford 21-8.
Whiteford closed to within 49-42 on a Hunter Lake field goal with just inside a minute to play, but the Bobcats would draw no closer.
Eitniear closed his career with 12 points while Jared Fink had 11 for the Bobcats. Iott scored seven points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Matthew Taylor scored six points while teaming with Antonio DiTerlizzi to play solid defense on the Falcons’ 6-foot-8 CJ Haut and 6-foot-6 Tyler Welch.
Haut finished with 16 and Kegley 13 for SMCC, now 22-0.
The Bobcats finished with a Tri-County Conference championship and 18 wins in 21 games. Four Bobcats finished the season averaging in double figures and six Whiteford players scored at least 119 points.
“This was one of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever had,” said Rice. “I’m proud to be associated with these kids. They never gave me any trouble and are guys with a lot of character.”
SMCC 56, Whiteford 44
Harrington 1(1) 0-0 3, Kegley 4(1) 4-5 13, Sherrard 2(2) 2-2 8, Haut 6 4-8 16, O’Brien 3(1) 2-2 9, Welch 2 3-3 7. Totals 18(5) 15-20 56.
Fink 3 5-7 11, Iott 2(1) 2-2 7, Lake 1 2-2 4, DiTerlizzi 2 0-0 4, Eitniear 5(2) 0-0 12, Taylor 3 0-0 6. Totals 16(3) 9-11 44.
SMCC 11 11 21 13 – 56
WHITEFORD 10 15 8 11 – 44
Total fouls – SMCC 16, Whiteford 20. Fouled out – Taylor. Technical fouls – None.