Warriors dial up the ‘D’

Whiteland boys basketball coach Matt Wadsworth is years removed from having to write a term paper on how he spent his summer.

Probably for the best, considering he would have received a

“D,” anyway.

In his third season with the Warriors, Wadsworth said his focus once the 2013-14 season

was completed centered

around eventually making Whiteland a defensive force to be reckoned with.

“In the offseason I did a statistical analysis on how the (defending) Class 4A sectional champions and our own (Mid-State Conference) champions performed defensively,”

Wadsworth said.

“We still mix up our defenses, but now there is a fundamental defensive drill we do in practices to get our own players to recognize the importance of that part of the game. As a team they’ve made a commitment to do things the right way.”

Carrying a 3-2 record into Friday’s home game against county rival Center Grove, the Warriors are limiting the opposition to 53.6 points a game on 39 percent field-goal shooting (96 of 246).

Whiteland also enjoys advantages in free throws made (65-53), rebounds (149-132), assists (61-38) and steals (31-25).

Experimenting with different lineups at different times has given Wadsworth the option to use the skill sets of nine different Warriors players during a game’s crucial moments.

“I think we’ve probably started a different lineup every game. The strength of this team is its versatility. We can go big or we can go with a smaller lineup,” Wadsworth said.

“We look at how players are playing in practices and games and who gives us the best chance to win.

There is only one senior on Whiteland’s 16-player varsity roster, 6-foot-3 forward center Bryce Staker, who supplies 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds a game.

He’ll most likely be joined in tonight’s starting lineup by 6-4 junior forward Tom Purdie, the Warriors’ leading scorer (16.0) and rebounder (5.4), 5-8 junior guard Terr’e Moss (11.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg), 6-foot junior Will Higdon (10 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and 6-5 sophomore swingman Mike Valle (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg).

Whiteland’s main reserves to this point are 6-2 junior forward Aaron Eblen (4.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and 5-9 junior guard Garrett Herald (2.4 ppg, 3.8 apg). Six-three junior forward Ben Robison and 5-10 sophomore guard Anthony Schantz also are seeing varsity minutes.

After facing Center Grove, the Warriors will host Greenwood Christian Academy on Saturday.

Then it’s a pair of road tests at Perry Meridian (Dec. 27) and Scottsburg (Dec. 30) before returning home to battle Bloomington North on Jan. 3.

Expect Whiteland’s best defensive effort to be present during these games and those later in the season.

“This group worked as hard as any team I’ve had in the offseason, and they’re such great competitors,” Wadsworth said. “But in order for our program to improve we have to develop consistency in how we play. To this point our play has been more consistent.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.