By DOUG DONNELLY
EAST LANSING – Morenci coach Jim Bauer said he thought his Bulldogs would have to catch some “magic” if it hoped to beat undefeated Powers North Central Saturday. That was before the Jets shot 70 percent from the floor in the first half.
“If we play them 10 times, we probably lose nine of them,” Bauer said. “We were hoping today we could strike a little magic, play the perfect game and hang with them.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, any hopes they had of hanging with the Jets went away early. Torin Merillat hit a field goal early to make it 7-6 with 5:52 left in the first quarter. His basket just under midway through the first quarter tied it at 10-10, but the Jets quickly went up 16-10. After a Bladen Mellon three-pointer with two minutes to play in the first quarter, PNC went on a 10-0 run.
In all, PNC (27-0) led for all but 34 seconds of the Class D state championship game and went on to win, 67-47. Morenci closes its season 24-3 with its first Regional title since 1954 and first-ever appearance in the state finals.
“They had size, they had quickness, they ballhandlers, they had rebounders,” Bauer said. “They are a team that has it all.”
Austin Sandusky and Torin Merillat each scored 11 points for the Bulldogs. Merillat also had 12 rebounds.
PNC shot 28-47 for the game from the floor, nearly 60 percent. Morenci shot 18-63, or 29 percent.
“Our guys have nothing to be ashamed of,” Bauer said. “They played with their heart, like they have all year long.”
The loss ended a 14-game winning streak for Morenci.
The Bulldogs gave up 45 first half points and 67 for the game – both season highs. In fact, Morenci held opponents at or below 45 points in 13 of its 27 games.
Every player on Morenci’s roster took at least one shot Saturday. Shawn Feltz hit the Bulldogs’ final basket with :00 left on the clock on a layup.
Morenci was outrebounded, 40-28, Saturday and had more offensive rebounds (15) than defensive rebounds.
The Bulldogs never led in Saturday’s game, which was tied for :34 seconds.
Madison Athletic Director Kris Isom presented the Class D runner-up trophy to Morenci coach Jim Bauer. Isom is a member of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Representative Council.
A pre-season No. 1 team in Class D for 2015-16? How about Powers North Central. The Jets started just one senior and its best player, 6-foot-4 Jason Whitens (19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) is just a sophomore.