DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Host Martinsville could never make Whiteland go away but simply refused to lose its senior night boys basketball thriller Friday night.
And the hosts did it at the line with the outcome on the line.
The Artesians got a game-high 26 points from senior Gannon Myers and as a team made 21 of 23 free throws, including 15 of 17 foul shots in the second half, to hold off the Warriors 67-64.
Martinsville claimed a share of the Mid-State Conference championship with a 5-1 league record — tying Morgan County rival Mooresville — and improved to 13-6 overall. Whiteland finished 3-3 in the league and fell to 8-12 in all contests with its third straight setback overall.
Trailing by seven points after the opening quarter and then falling behind by 12 at halftime, it appeared Whiteland wasn’t going to be able to tear into the Artesians’ cushion enough to make a game of it.
But the Warriors did just that in the fourth period.
Whiteland made its strongest surge of all in the last minute as Will Higdon hit a 3-point basket and to trim the host’s once-safe lead to just two at 59-57.
After Martinsville’s Zach Anderson hit a pair of free throws — two of the Artesians’ 10 foul shots in the final quarter — the Warriors pulled to within just one point at 61-60 when Aaron Eblen scored on a basket-and-one with 32 seconds to go.
Whiteland, however, could draw no closer, as the Artesians got two more free throws each from Anderson, Myers and Tim Bowlen to offset hoops by Tom Purdie and Terr’e Moss in the last half minute.
The Artesians got 13 points from Anderson and 10 from Keegan Northern to follow Myers’ game-best 26. Eblen paced the Warriors with 20 points, followed by Purdie with 15 and Moss with 12.
“Our effort in the second half was good enough for us to win the game, but we have to put together a full game,” Wadsworth said. “We just have to put this behind us, have some short memories and get ready for New Palestine.”
Though the Warriors coach was disappointed in the game’s outcome, he was heartened by his players’ poise and effort.
“I think that’s important,” Wadsworth said. “I see some leadership developing as they coach themselves for those situations on the floor.”
Martinsville coach Kip Staggs was pleased with his team’s outstanding work at the foul line.
“Most of those came in the second half, too,” Staggs said. “Whiteland shot all the free throws in the first half, but we were able to get to the foul line in the second half and they (the Warriors) were fouling us late.
“Josh Bertelsen missed one (free throw) but got a key rebound and basket on the miss.
“Give a lot of credit to Whiteland,” he noted. “They really battled us, and they just continue to get better.”