By DOUG DONNELLY
BLISSFIELD – Les Manley couldn’t wait Tuesday night to watch the film of the Bobcats’ season opening 51-35 loss to Blissfield. He wanted to count the missed layups.
“I told the girls that if we would have made our layups, we would be right in the game,” Manley said. “It felt like we were right there the whole time, but we kept missing shots inside. You can’t miss that many layups and still expect to win.”
The Bobcats opened the season with the non-league loss, but Manley was encouraged with the effort of his 10-player squad, most of which played double-duty by also appearing in the JV game.
“Until it was a 24-point game, I never felt we were out of it,” Manley said.
Whiteford’s Madelyn Thomas and Anna VanBrandt both hit triples in the first quarter as the Bobcats trailed just 9-7 after the first eight minutes.
Thomas hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 9-9, then converted a layup with 6:09 left in the second quarter and the Bobcats led 11-9.
Blissfield, who starts two 6-1 juniors, got a nice play at the basket by one of those, junior center Sarah Bettis, to move in front 13-11 and the Bobcats would never lead again. Whiteford stayed in the game, however, by forcing turnovers and boxing out on the Royal forwards.
Thomas hit another 3-pointer to cut into a 19-11 deficit, but the Royals closed out the first half with a layup, jumper, and free throw for a 24-16 lead at the break.
The third quarter was the biggest Whiteford downfall, especially when Blissfield sophomore Avery Collins had three consecutive steals within a 50-second span that she converted all into layups. She also closed out the third quarter with a 3-pointer to give Blissfield a game-changing 20-4 third-quarter advantage.
“We told the girls not to throw it anywhere in her area, but she’s just a really good defender,” Manley said of Collins.
Thomas finished with 10 points and VanBrandt 8. Seven different Bobcats scored at least a point.
Whiteford has just six players on its JV roster, three of which also play varsity basketball. The Michigan High School Athletic Association implemented the five-quarter rule last year, meaning a girl can appear in a maximum of five quarters in one night. Freshman Emily Hill and sophomore Shay Alexander both scored in both games.
The Bobcat host Jefferson Friday.
Blissfield 51, Whiteford 35
WHITEFORD: Hill 1 0-0 2, Thomas 3(2) 2-3 10, Alexander 1 0-0 2, VanBrandt 3(2) 0-0 8, Rasor 1 0-0 2, Bauman 3 0-1 6, Hillard 2 1-2 5, Kohler 0 0-1 0. Totals 14(4) 3-6 35.
BLISSFIELD: Miller 1 1-1 3, Bris-Bois 0 0-1 0, Spallone 2 1-2 5, Collins 7(1) 1-3 16, Louden 0 1-1 1, Bettis 3 4-6 10, Valasek 0 2-2 2, Martinez 0 2-2 2, White 5 2-2 12. Totals 18(1) 14-20 51.
Photo by Deloris Clark-Osborne.