Greenhills beats Whitmore Lake, Clinton advances to play Willow Run in Class C district
The Greenhills School boys basketball team escaped the opening round of district play with a win on Monday, but head coach Andrew Wright didn’t sound like the leader of an 18-1 team with a playoff win in the rearview mirror.
Wright was just glad the game over with. Happy that his team had gotten the game out of its system.
There were plenty of flaws in the way his team advanced in the Class C district at Whitmore Lake High School with a 51-40 win over the host Trojans, but at the end of the day, it was still a win.
“I think we just needed to get his game out of the way,” Wright said. “There’s something about district jitters that comes out and I think a lot of the guys had anxiety going into the game and got amped up.
“Now that we’ve got it out of the way, got some of the turnovers out of the way, we can just play like we’ve been, because we’re usually not like that.”
“Like that” included a barrage of turnovers, much of which could be credited to Whitmore Lake’s stingy defense, though.
“They did a nice job extending their zone and we haven’t seen a lot of extended zone this year, so it took us a little while to kind of get adjusted to it,” Wright said.
But as well as Whitmore Lake was playing on he defense it didn’t have the offense to match.
Gunner McGibbon gave Whitmore Lake (6-15) a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter with a 3-point basket and a Rory Judge layup extended that lead to three points to begin the second.
But as Whitmore Lake’s defense held Greenhills scoreless for more than six minutes, the Trojans couldn’t buy a bucket.
During a five minute stretch in the second quarter the teams went a combined 1-of-12 from the field, 0-for-2 from the free-throw line and turned the ball over nine times.
While Greenhills’ struggles seemed much to do with Whitmore Lake’s defense, Whitmore Lake’s lack of offense seemed its own doing and those struggles continued into second half after trailing 20-17 at the break.
“We had one stretch there in the third quarter where we had four defensive stops then four missed layups,” Whitmore Lake coach Casey Livingston said. “We haven’t shot that bad in a while.”
Whitmore Lake shot 17-of-49 (34.7 percent) including 4-of-16 from 3-point range and went 2-of-7 from the free-throw line.
“We didn’t have the touch tonight. You gotta knock down some of those open shots,” Livingston said. “We had enough stops to win, we forced them to take the shots we wanted them to take, but it’s hard to win if you don’t score.”
Judge led Whitmore Lake with 15 points, while Abe Estenson and Andrew Khouri each had 15 to lead Greenhills as well. Greenhills advances to play Arbor Prep (7-10) on Wednesday in the semifinals after the Gators received a first round bye.
In Wednesday's other semifinal, Clinton (17-2) will take on Willow Run (10-10). While the Flyers enjoyed a first-round bye, the Redskins advanced after an 82-55 win over Manchester which ended the season with just a single victory all year.
The game didn’t look like two-loss team against a one-win team, with Manchester trailing 16-15 and matching the Tri-County Conference champions blow-for-blow.
“Our effort was really good in the first half and I think we came out ready to play,” Manchester coach Dave Arnold said. “I give our guys a lot of credit, 1-19, playing a team like Clinton that’s had the kind of season they’ve had, they could have just said 'the hell with it', and kind of phoned it in.”
But Clinton didn’t need Manchester to phone it in to take over. With two minutes left in the first quarter Marco Nunzi was re-inserted into the game after a short breather and took over as a floor general.
Nunzi got two consecutive steals and layups to score his only four points of the night, then followed them up with a pair of assists as Clinton ended the quarter on an 8-0 run.
Nunzi stayed hot to begin the second quarter, dishing out four straight assists as Clinton extended its lead to 30-17. Manchester never got within single digits the rest of the way. Nunzi finished with 15 assists.
“I think once we went down 12 or 13 we kind of looked up and realized it and went into a cold streak the likes of which I haven’t seen out of this group in two years,” Arnold said. “We just could not buy a shot.”
Grant Clark was the major beneficiary of Nunzi’s dimes, especially in the second quarter, when he scored 17 of his team’s 19 points in the frame.
Clark finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
Clinton coach Mike Ruhl said is team will have to big in the low block against Willow Run on Wednesday.
“We’re going to see similar pressure against Willow Run, and we’re going to have to finish in the backend like we did tonight,” Ruhl said. “We’ve had two games in a row now where we’ve been trapped. Now we’ve got to be ready for some quicker kids some better athletes. We know it’s going to be a war.”
Ryan Stiles led Manchester with 18 points.