By DAVID GREEN
Morenci's varsity boys watched a 16-point lead slip into a deficit as time was running out at home last week against Whitmore Lake. The Trojans (1-3) kept chipping away at the lead as Bulldog shooters turned a little cold, but a bucket by Bladen Mellon as time ran out preserved a 61-60 league win for Morenci (3-1).
"Whitmore Lake did to us what we try to do to other teams," said Morenci coach Jim Bauer. "We try to speed teams up and get them out of their comfort zone. We aren't disciplined enough to know to slow it down."
Bauer saw his squad attempting too many long-distance bombs that weren't going through the hoop, as they were in the first half.
"They're tempting," he said, "but when you hit a dry spell, you need to make sure it's a good shot."
Morenci opened with a 20-point first quarter to lead 20-13 and extended the margin to 12 points by the half-time break. Four more points to start off the second half gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game, but that's when the tide began to turn. Morenci scored only twice more from the field that quarter and led by only five points as the final quarter got underway.
"Whitmore Lake got hot in the fourth quarter and it seemed like a snowball effect," Bauer said, "but we allowed them to have the chance. We were often out of position on the press."
Bauer finally pulled out of the press because it just wasn't effective.
Mellon erased the Trojans' one-point lead with the final basket of the game, but it wasn't a win to feel good about, Bauer said.
"When you're not hitting, you need to work together and set up screens," he said. "We played into their hands."
Twenty of Morenci's 25 baskets came off assists, the coach said, and he sees that as a positive sign.
Bauer saw Torin Merillat's play as a stabilizing force for the Bulldogs—both in rebounds and in baskets—to calm down the Whitmore Lake rush in the second half. The senior finished with a team-high 17 points on a seven-for-eight shooting night.
Austin Sandusky had shooting troubles, Bauer said, but his play-making was excellent. Sandusky finished with eight rebounds, four steals and 11 assists. Merillat brought in seven rebounds and Mellon had six.
As a team, Morenci hit only five of 20 three-point attempts and went 20 for 45 from two-point range. They hit six of nine from the line, including Merillat's three-for-three showing.
• Morenci’s game at Clinton was rescheduled to Saturday, Feb. 21. The Bulldogs entertain Whiteford (1-4) on Friday and travel Tuesday to Pittsford.