Eaton Rapids claimed the inside track in the CAAC Gold girls basketball title race, and wasted no time doing it in a 51-40 win over Waverly on Friday night.
The Greyhounds (9-2 overall, 4-0 CAAC Gold) started the game with an 8-2 run in the first three minutes, with all 8 scored by Bianca Cavazos, and never trailed in the contest to keep sole possession of first place in the Gold standings.
The Greyhounds lead Charlotte by one game and Waverly, Jackson Northwest and Jackson Lumen Christi by two, but Eaton Rapids coach Willis Whitmyer said that his team can’t get complacent just yet with the Titans, Orioles and Mounties the next three opponents on his schedule.
“We have three tough games coming up, and we’re going to have to play some good basketball to get through them,” Whitmyer said. “We have a long way to go, and the girls know that. We’re not even close to reaching our potential, and we talk about that a lot.”
Whitmyer said that his bench has become deeper since the beginning of the season.
“We had some substitutes who came in and played well, and were able to give our starters a little time off,” he said. “It looks like our rotation is getting a little larger, which is nice. We’re going to need that.”
Cavazos led all scorers with 18 points and Allie Dittmer added 12 for Eaton Rapids, which made it look easy in the first half. The Greyhounds took a 17-6 lead in the first quarter and ended the second on a 9-1 run to take a 26-11 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
It was a different story in the second half, in which Waverly (5-6, 3-2) stood toe-to-toe with the Greyhounds and even caused some anxious moments late in the game. Eaton Rapids maintained its lead in the third quarter and well into the fourth, but did were not able to increase it.
“Our shots didn’t go down as much,” Whitmyer said. “And I think we stopped rebounding in the third quarter. They out rebounded us 11-4, which is unacceptable. If you don’t rebound, you let teams back in.”
Victoria Milton led Waverly with 12 points, 10 of them in an astonishing late flurry sparked by a successful full-court press. With the Warriors trailing 47-30 in the final minutes, Milton went on a personal 10-0 run in a span of 47 seconds, hitting two 3-pointers, a putback and two free throws to cut the lead to seven points with 38.4 seconds left on the clock.
“The girls just wanted to keep fighting,” Waverly interim coach T.J. Hawkins said. “They came out and wanted to show our resilience, and even though we didn’t get the win tonight, we fought until the end.”
But Eaton Rapids scored the last four points to put out the fire and run out with the double-digit win. Whitmyer said that the late scare was a good thing for his team’s progress.
“We need situations like that, so we learn how to handle them,” he said. “I thought we had a big enough lead, but who knows at the rate Milton was knocking them down. But we need to be put in that position.”
Shadaira McCarty scored 8 points for Waverly and Breanna Mobely added six in her first game of the year. Mobely sustained a broken foot before the season, and played limited minutes in this game, but made her presence felt, scoring all six of her points down low, two of them on putbacks.
“You saw glimpses tonight of what she can do,” Hawkins said. “I just want to ease her back in slowly, I don’t want her to go from not playing at all to 30 minutes a night. Basketball game shape, up and down the floor, is a lot different from the treadmill or doing work in the gym.”