Lady Wildcats lose close game to Rochester, 53-51

ROCHESTER — Whitko girls basketball team played a hard-fought game in Rochester Saturday night that came down to the final seconds to decide. It was a battle of two evenly matched teams, as neither squad led by more than seven points at any point in the game.From opening tip off to the final buzzer, the Lady Wildcats had to contend with a ferocious defensive effort by Rochester, falling 53-51 to their Three Rivers Conference foes. The staunch defense disrupted Whitko’s timing and caused numerous turnovers — particularly in the first half.“We freaked out at every bit of pressure,” said Whitko head coach Brandon Bradley. “Nobody wanted to be the one turning the ball over, so the easiest thing was to get rid of the ball as fast as they could.”With 30 seconds left to play, senior Josie Sparks came up with a defensive rebound, but as she hurried the ball up the court, she was called for a double dribble.Whitko still trailing by one, Craig fouled the Rochester ball holder, giving her foul number five. Rochester hit both of its double-bonus free throws, furthering its lead to 51-48.Without its starting point guard and only 10 seconds to play, Whitko got the ball to freshman forward Jennifer Reiff, who was fouled on a lay-up that went in. Reiff drilled the free throw to complete the old fashioned three-point play that tied the game at 51 with six seconds on the clock.After a Rochester time out to draw up a play, the Lady Zebras inbounded the ball, drove to the hoop, and hit a field goal that ended the game in regulation. Whitko lost by a score of 53-51.When asked about final play, Bradley said, “We got beat off the dribble and we had no help. We were standing a watching the game just like the other 31 minutes and 50 seconds of the game.”Whitko falls to 5-9 on the season.Craig led Whitko with 15 points. She made two 3-point baskets and went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line. Reiff added seven points while hitting 5-of-6 free throws. Junior guard Kelly Reiff contributed six points on two 3-point field goals.Whitko will play the 12-2 Norwell Lady Knights at home Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 7 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.