DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Three weeks ago, in the semifinals of the Johnson County Tournament, Whiteland and Indian Creek played a back-and-forth game that was not settled until the Warriors closed the contest with an 11-5 run.
On Wednesday, when the boys basketball teams met again at Indian Creek, Whiteland used transition offense and control of the backboards to claim a more comfortable win.
Led by sophomore Michael Valle’s 24 points, the Warriors knocked off host Indian Creek 71-59.
Early on, the game appeared to be a repeat of the county tournament match. A late 3-pointer by Valle gave Whiteland a 13-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second and third quarters, the Warriors (8-9) stretched the lead out to as many as 11 points on several occasions. But each time the Braves rallied and sliced the lead to as few as five points.
Leading 50-43 to begin the fourth quarter, Whiteland used what had been working all night to close out the game. Valle dunked in transition at the 6:20 mark, scored in the lane off a steal with 4:00 to play and got a put-back off a missed free throw with 2:06 left. That was one of 12 offensive rebounds for Whiteland on the night.
Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said the Warriors wanted to force the tempo on offense.
“Going into the game, we talked about what worked the first time and what needed to work again,” he said. “On the offensive end, running the floor was at the top of the list.”
On four different occasions in the second half, Whiteland scored within five seconds after an Indian Creek basket.
Wadsworth said he was pleased at how the Warriors controlled the Indian Creek transition game, too.
“On the defensive end, getting back and forcing them to shoot over two guys was very important for us tonight,” Wadsworth said. “That was something I was proud of because our last two games we struggled with that aspect.
“The players responded and stepped up.”
For Indian Creek coach Derek Perry, the story of the game was Whiteland having more energy and giving more effort.
“We were out-hustled in every phase of the game,” Perry said. “They dictated what we were trying to do on offense. Loose balls, offensive rebounds, 50-50 balls, it seems like they came up with them every time.
“Overall, it’s just disappointing. They just came out and handed it to us.”
Perry added that playing Class 4A Whiteland was a perfect chance for the Class 3A Braves to test themselves for the postseason.
“Yeah, we’re 11-5, but it’s disappointing that we can’t raise the bar when it comes to playing a bigger 4A school and match their intensity,” Perry said. “Our kids don’t understand what level you have to play at when you play a 4A team, or a good 3A team.
“We have to beat a team like Whiteland in order to win our sectional.”
Junior point guard Terr’e Moss added 19 points for the Warriors.
Spencer Wood, a senior, led the Braves (11-5) with 15 points. Dylan Phair scored 12, and Jared DeHart and Gynson Robley each added 10 points.
Whiteland returns to Mid-State conference play Friday when its host Decatur Central. Indian Creek will play Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.