By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Instant offense.
Josh Hill and Caleb Willis — two players who didn’t start the game for Whiteford Tuesday — came up big when the Bobcats needed it most to help them recover from a sluggish start to come from as many as 11 points down to beat Summerfield, 50-46.
The Bulldogs got out to a 11-0 start as the Bobcats missed their first 11 shots.
Two buckets by Drew Dafoe, a jumper by Roman Iott and back-to-back field goals by Brandon Thompson put Summerfield up 11-0 with 4:35 left in the opening quarter. Whiteford didn’t score until just under the two minute mark when Cole Giesige scored from underneath to make it 11-2. Hill buried a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in the quarter to cut it to a six-point game.
In the second quarter, Summerfield took an 18-10 lead on a Thompson drive but the Bobcats closed the first half with a 13-0 run.
Isaiah Joerin scored on a great move to the basket and Shea Ruddy buried a triple from the deep corner to cut it to 20-16. A spinning bucket in the lane by Giesige made it 20-18 and Joerin tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:30 left then put the Bobcats in front for the first time with a 3-pointer inside of 20 seconds left in the half.
“It was not the start we wanted, but credit to Summerfield for that,” Bobcat coach Nick Abalos said. “We knew we would get out of it. We just had to keep our composure and start making shots and we did.”
The Bulldogs defense gave the Bobcats fits early in the third quarter and Iott put the visitors in front 29-28 with 2:27 left in the third on an incredible three-point play in which he scored in the lane while falling to the floor.
Hill’s second 3-pointer of the quarter, however, put the Bobcats back in front 31-29 then back-to-back driving layups by Willis helped give the Bobcats and eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Willis didn’t play in the first 22 minutes of the game. When he first touched the ball he instantly took it to the hole and scored. He repeated the move the next Bobcat possession.
“I was a little mad, I’m not going to lie,” Willis said about not playing earlier in the game. “When I came in, I knew what I was going to do with it. I just kept taking to the rack.”
Abalos praised Willis for coming in cold and hitting those shots. He finished with six points.
“That was great,” he said. “I was really happy to see that. He did a nice job.”
Summerfield cut it to 46-41 inside the final minute but gave up a full court pass to Ruddy for an easy layup to put the game away. The Bulldogs’ Teddy Gault hit a triple just before the buzzer to close the gap to four.
Joerin led the Bobcats with 11 points while Ruddy scored 10, Hill nine 9 and Giesige seven.
“We had a big crowd tonight and I think that picked us up,” Joerin said. “We just tried to stay in the game as much as possible. It’s really important our team stay close and play together. We try and fire each other up and play on.”
Joerin said when the Bobcats hit the 3-pointers, it helped loosen the tight Summerfield defense.
“I feel like we moved the ball well a lot,” Joerin said. “They were in that 2-3 and we hit some shots and they had to go to man. We like playing against man-to-man defenses.”
The Bobcats improved to 7-2 overall. They now face Erie Mason Friday night in another key Tri-County Conference matchup. It’s early in the season, but the Bobcats have a two game lead over the rest of the league.
“I think tonight definitely helps, especially since we were down so much in the first quarter,” Willis said. “That should carry over to Friday. We have a lot of fans coming. It should be really popping in here.”
Summerfield is 3-5 and 2-2 in the TCC. Iott finished with 18 points, Dafoe 12 and Thompson nine for the Bulldogs.
Head coach Phil Schiffler experienced his first Bobcat-Bulldog matchup and was pleased with the way his team handled the situation.
“We wanted to throw something different at them and it worked, but unfortunately we didn’t have a very good second quarter.
“Hats off to my boys for competing right down to the buzzer,” Schiffler said. “We had to pick our poison. They had a young kid come off the bench and make some plays. We had to pick the poison and the poison but us today. That’s what it is.”
Schiffler said he saw some encouraging things from his squad.
“We’re really kind of just catching stride,” he said. “This will make us better. I think we did rise to the challenge. They still have to come to our place. We’ll be ready next time we play them.”
Whiteford 50, Summerfield 46
SUMMERFIELD: Gault 1(1) 0-0 3, Kalb 1 0-0 2, Iott 6 6-7 18, DaFoe 4 4-6 12, Thompson 3(1) 2-2 9, Herrmann 1 0-0 2. Totals 16(2) 12-15 46.
WHITEFORD: Ruddy 3(1) 3-4 10, Hill 3(3) 0-0 9, I. Joerin 4(1) 2-3 11, Rasor 2 1-2 5, Willis 3 0-0 6, Giesige 3 1-2 7, Andrews 1 0-0 2, L. Joerin 0 0-1 0. Totals 19(5) 7-12 50.