Coming off an important Mid-State Conference victory Saturday, the Whiteland girls basketball team had a chance to make an even bigger statement Monday night.
The Warriors battled back from an early deficit, took a halftime lead and seemed poised to give Class 2A No. 3 Triton Central its first loss of the season.
But a furious rally that ended on a Natalie Stephenson 3-pointer with 13 seconds to play gave the host Tigers a 53-52 win.
Whiteland had one shot before time
expired, but a long 3-point attempt rimmed out.
With just over six minutes remaining it looked like Whiteland’s game to win. The Warriors used a strong third quarter to build a 14-point lead, a margin they maintained until the 6:24 mark of the final period.
Triton Central sophomore Samantha Felling hit a short jumper that kicked off a 20-5 closing spurt for the Tigers. During that stretch, Triton Central knocked down four 3-pointers after hitting just one in the game’s first 27 minutes.
Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said the Warriors lost the poise they had played with through the first three-plus quarters.
“It kind of caught up with us a little at the end,” he said. “We turned the ball over a couple times. We took some bad shots at times. But tip the hat. They made some plays there at the end, and we didn’t.”
The Warriors (4-5) hit just one field goal in the final stanza while turning the ball over five times.
The disappointing finish masked what was a terrific effort by Whiteland in the first three quarters. After falling behind 15-7 early, it closed the first half on a 19-9 run that had the Warriors up 26-24 at halftime.
Then they thoroughly dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers 17-5, hitting seven of 10 shots from the field.
Shipp said the program would not count a close road loss to a ranked team as a moral victory.
“We expect to win every game. We’re not satisfied with losing here tonight. We feel like we’ve made progress, but we have to continue to get better every single day,” Shipp said.
Kara White and Sidney Crowe each scored 12 points to lead Whiteland. Mackenzie Blazek added 11 points and eight rebounds. The Warriors hit 18 of 44 shots for the game (.409). They also out-rebounded the Tigers, 34-27.
Three Triton Central players were in double-figures, led by Stephenson with 14. Samantha Dewey scored 13 and Isabella Ratliff had 11 points. The Tigers (7-0) shot .434 from the field (23 of 53).
The Warriors take nearly a two-week break before their next game. They travel to face Seymour on December 20.
Shipp said Monday’s loss will fuel Whiteland’s work over the next 11 days.
“It will keep us hungry,” he said.