SPRING ARBOR, Mich. - Whiteford wilted under intense defensive pressure and its key players struggled to score in a season-ending loss in a Class C regional semifinal last night.
The Bobcats lost for the first time as they scored just seven points in the fourth quarter and fell to Hanover-Horton 65-44 before a packed house. The battle of unbeatens attracted a pro-Comet crowd of about 3,600 with people stacked eight rows deep in the standing-room area on both ends of the court.
Guard Anthony Miracola, who came in averaging 21.4 points per game, finished with 18. But he was 9-for-23 from the field and was 0-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The team's other top scorers - seniors Bobby Plumer and Joe Gust, finished well below their season averages. Plummer had 12 and Gust six.
“I think we got a little bit tired,” said Whiteford coach John Rice, whose team bowed out with a 23-1 record. “They go 10-deep and we go only six or seven-deep. It was hot in there and I think we got tired at the end. But you have to give credit where credit is due and they play very tough defense.”
Hanover-Horton (24-0) kept Whiteford at bay nearly all evening, although the Bobcats pulled within four points with 6:04 remaining. However, the Comets put it away with a 19-0 run over the next four minutes.
“I don't know if they got tired, but our bench was crucial throughout the game,” said Hanover-Horton coach Chad Mortimer. “We have a solid, deep bench. Any one of those guys can come in and do a good job. They average over 70 points per game so for us to hold them to 44 is great defense.”
Whiteford shot just 31 percent from the floor and made just 2 of 19 from 3-point range.
Miracola, who transferred to Whiteford from Start, displayed his flashy style all night. Nearly every time he touched the ball, he dribbled between his legs, used head fakes and created shots for himself and his teammates.
However his shots rarely found the net and he did not score a 3-pointer in the game for only the second time this season.
Miracola, who is listed at 5-7, holds the school record for 3-pointers in a season, but he made just 3 of 10 shots in the second half as the Bobcats faded.
Whiteford went cold and was beaten badly on the boards over the last three minutes of the first quarter, when the Bobcats scored just two points and fell behind 20-12. But then 6-7 center Patrick O'Mara dominated on the boards at the start of the second quarter as Whiteford closed within two points with 2:40 to go. O'Mara finished with nine rebounds.
Hanover held a 38-25 rebounding advantage and had as many defensive boards as Whiteford had overall rebounds.
Ryan Frasier scored 20 points for Hanover-Horton, which faces Bronson (20-4) here Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional final.
The Comets are 48-2 over the last two seasons and finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state in Class C.
Whiteford was ranked No. 7 in the final poll.
“This is by far the best team I've ever coached,” said Rice, who earned his 400th victory this season. “They are a great group of kids.”