Flashes end Whiteland’s season, 66-59

If Whiteland Community High School coach Matt Wadsworth had to sum up the basketball season, he said he would call it “unfinished business.”

The Warriors, who made strides during the season, were eliminated by Franklin Central 66-59 on Tuesday night in Class 4A sectional first-round action at Whiteland.

“I think within the season you saw the potential of what we could become,” said Wadsworth, whose team finished 10-13. “We’ve got to approach the offseason with a desire and passion to get better.”

The Warriors delivered some promising moments Tuesday before falling to the Flashes (6-15).

Junior Tom Purdie, who led the Warriors with 21 points, sank four 3-pointers in the first quarter as Whiteland got off to a 16-6 lead before settling for a 16-14 advantage after the first quarter.

Junior Aaron Eblen sank a shot from a step beyond the 3-point line to put Whiteland in a 28-all tie at halftime.

“Aaron had couple good games to finish the season,” Wadsworth said. “He spends extra time after practice, and the last two weeks he’s gotten better as a player. Hopefully, that will carry over.”

However, the momentum from Eblen’s huge heave didn’t last long.

“They probably had five offensive rebounds within two possessions that led to scores to start the second half, and that hurt us,” Wadsworth said.

“In that same stretch, we let (Anthony) Cerbone and (Marcus) Burk get loose for a couple of jump shots, and that created a gap we had to battle to recover from.

“Franklin Central played a complete game offensively and defensively to keep us off-balance.”

Cerbone and Burk each had four 3-pointers. Burk led the Flashes with 18 points, and Cerbone had 14.

The Flashes led 44-40 after three quarters but pushed the lead to 57-48 on a 3-pointer by Cerbone with 3:18 to go.

The Warriors closed the deficit to 57-53 with a 3-point play by Purdie with 2:26 to go.

However, Franklin Central’s Grant Pedigo answered with a basket and then Jimmy Weinke hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:23 as the Flashes pulled away.

“They’ve got good shooters, and they just executed better than we did in the long run,” Purdie said.

Purdie said he is proud of how the team worked and progressed. Whiteland was 8-14 last season.

“It means a lot to have teammates like that,” Purdie said. “They work as hard as they can for me, as I work as hard as I can for them. We’re going to work hard in the offseason and be prepared to go next year.”

The Warriors graduate just one senior, Bryce Staker.

“When I started three years ago, he was there from Day One,” Wadsworth said. “He stuck it out through the highs and lows. I think when we have success next year, he can look back with a lot of pride and say he’s a part of it. He helped lay the foundation.”

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.