Big third quarter lifts Warriors

Whiteland’s boys basketball team took advantage of a 20-7 third-quarter run to hold off visiting New Palestine 69-54 on Tuesday, making it a happy Senior Night for the Warriors.

The win snapped a three-game losing skid for Whiteland (9-12).

Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth credited his team’s effort to that third quarter and to a little momentum carried over from the Warriors’ previous game, a three-point loss to Mid-State foe Martinsville last week.

“I liked our level of play and focus in that quarter,” Wadsworth said. “We wanted to score early and keep our defense up and we did that.”

Prior to that quarter, it was a pretty even half for both the Warriors and Dragons.

After a slow start, the game progressed into one of a fast tempo that at first benefited New Palestine but then ultimately started favoring Whiteland.

The Dragons held a slim 10-9 lead after the first quarter with a nice inside game, but it was the outside shooting where they had trouble. Specifically, the Dragons were having trouble finding the net from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Dragons tried 10 times, hitting everything but the net until senior Benjamin Farley finally hit one shortly before the first half ended, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 26-23.

“We didn’t shoot well,” New Palestine coach Adam Barton said. “And for the second straight game that had an impact on the game. Of course, it would have helped matters had we boxed out and hit our free throws.”

While the Dragons were having their troubles, Whiteland found the range, hitting seven 3-pointers. Junior Will Higdon was the most dead-eye with four treys.

In the fourth quarter, down 16, New Palestine didn’t quit.

Barton employed a trap defense which confused the Warriors, resulting in four turnovers and a 9-0 run that cut Whiteland’s lead to 46-39.

Unfortunately for the Dragons, that’s as close as they would come as the Warriors coolly paced themselves and worked the ball through for short but important baskets.

A big key was junior Tom Purdie hit a put-back shot off a missed free throw. After that, the Warriors didn’t worry.

“We did a good job with the trap and were hoping to continue that, but we didn’t plan on being down 16 points,” Barton said.

Whiteland was led by Purdie’s game-high 22 points.

Higdon added 13, while Terr’e Moss and Michael Valle had 10 each.

The Dragons (10-11) were led by Ryan Curry’s 21 points.

“We have a short period of time to fix our problems,” Barton said.

Wadsworth was pleased with every aspect of the game by the Warriors.

“New Palestine averages nearly 70 points a game, and to hold them to 54 is quite a pretty good feat,” Wadsworth said.

“We had better execution tonight and did everything well — attack the basket, play defense and rebound.”

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Ken Severson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.