by Rob Grubbs
The Our Lady of Mercy Bobcats hosted the Whitewater Wildcats for an intra-county Saturday basketball matinee. With Christmas Break on the horizon, this was both schools’ last regular season game before holiday tournaments close out the year and an opportunity to develop their rosters for the region battles ahead.
After jumping out to a huge lead, the Whitewater boys (5-5) held on to win 71-57 as the Bobcats (5-4) mounted a furious second-half comeback. The victory, combined with a Lady Wildcats 63-26 win, completed the sweep for Whitewater.
In the girls’ game, Mercy came out determined behind freshman Morgan Skipper. She connected on a 3-pointer to give the Lady Bobcats an 8-7 lead five minutes into the game. The lead was short lived as the Wildcats, fueled by their talented senior duo of Jada Claude and Courtney Smith, finished the first half on a 26-3 run to take control of the game. Martina Takang started the onslaught with a defensive rebound and drove the entire length of the floor for the score.
Claude spent most of the hot streak getting her teammates involved. She constantly made the extra pass to open teammates and finished with 4 assists. This gave Whitewater head coach Rashad Muhyee an opportunity to play his talented younger players, as freshman Leah Smith, Charity Cloud, and Ella Chance, along with sophomores Allie Watson and Sole Chinnery all got significant minutes.
Claude led the Wildcats (6-5) with 19 points, Smith had 14, and Asia Powell added 8 points in the victory.
Cloud had some brilliant moments leading the offense from the point in the second half.
“She has been playing in spots recently, she has very active hands and plays hard, the future is looking bright with our three freshmen,” said Muhyee. “The team is an overall good group, we just need to go out and win a region game.”
Skipper led the Bobcats (1-8), scoring 20 of their 26 points.
The boys’ game had a similar feel to it as the Wildcats enjoyed a 17-point halftime lead. Throughout the game, Whitewater head coach Matt Martin looked to get his bench some playing time. Behind the athletic and up-tempo play of K’won Bush, Omar Ndengey, and C.J. Jackson, the Wildcats extended their lead to 24 at the end of the third, and Martin brought in the second group to close the game out.
The Bobcats started on a torrid comeback behind Robert Wheeler, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth. With the lead starting to dwindle, Martin had to return his starters to the floor midway through the final frame. A three by Jalen Dincol brought the Bobcats within 10 late, but the hole was just too deep, and Whitewater held on for the 71-57 final.
A relieved Martin said from the locker room, “We wanted to give some guys a look tonight because when we get to our region games, we need some guys to come in and step up from the bench. I was hoping some of our guys that came in today at the end of the third and start of the fourth would give us something, but the lead went from 26 to 16.”
Bush led a balanced Wildcat scoring attack with 14, Ndengey and Josh Marks both had 13, and Javon Jenkins added 10. Anthony Ogbonna lead the Bobcats with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
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