By Greg Gielczyk

MANISTEE — Whitehall opened a 14-point lead with 5:26 left in the game and then survived a late flurry by Manistee to earn a 44-39 West Michigan Conference Lakes Division victory over the Chippewas on Thursday night.
The Vikings started fast, going on a 5-0 run in the first couple minutes. Their defense pestered the Chippewas into committing three turnovers without getting off a shot.
“We start five seniors lately, and having that leadership has just been fantastic,” said Whitehall coach Brian Milliron. “We have seven on the team. We were at four for awhile because of injuries and we’re back up to six. The seniors kind of set the tone. We don’t have a 20-point scorer on this team, but we had nine players contribute tonight.”
Whitehall shot just 12-for-22 from the line.
“It was a five-point game, and if we shoot 50 percent, the lead is more comfortable,” Milliron said.
Manistee answered the Viking’s quick start with a 6-0 run of its own and moved in front for the only time in the game, 6-5, with 2:57 left in the first quarter on a bucket by Mariah Bialik.
Lexi Daggett buried a 3-point shot for the Vikings that gave them the lead for good, 8-6, and they held an 11-6 lead after one.
Lola Buckner knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for the Vikings in the second quarter and Whitehall mounted a 10-point lead, 21-11, at 2:12 of the period. It was 27-13 at the half.
The Vikings led by eight, 36-28, at the end of the third quarter and then extended it to 14 points, 42-28, with 5:26 left in regulation on four straight points by Autumn Ferris.
But the Chippewas suddenly caught fire, and aided by poor free-throw shooting by the Vikings and strong defensive rebounding to gain possession, stormed back only to run out of time.
Daggett paced the Vikings with nine points, Ferris contributed eight and Hailey Carnes, Buckner and Lucy Zamojcin scored seven apiece.
McCarthy drilled three 3-pointers and scored 14 points to lead Manistee. Allison Kelley and Jayna Edmondson each added six points.
Whitehall (10-6, 3-5) will travel to Ludington next Tuesday night.
Manistee (7-9, 4-5) will travel to Benzie Central on Monday night.