Jessyca Napier had displayed her shooting ability, Whiteland girls basketball coach Kyle Shipp said, but had never cashed in that ability in a varsity game the way she did Tuesday at Indian Creek.
Napier, a 5-foot-9 junior wing who played primarily junior varsity last season, torched the host Braves, hitting 7 of 8 3-pointers for a game-high 21 points.
They proved to be the difference in the Warriors’ 65-49 win against their county rivals.
“We saw her ability to shoot the ball as a JV player last year, and it was only a matter of time before she would get loose in a game,” Shipp said. “Seven is impressive by any stretch.”
Indian Creek coach Dan Burkman said he noticed Napier’s shooting touch, while scouting the Warriors and told the players to keep an eye on her.
Instead, the Braves often collapsed on Whiteland’s 6-2 sophomore center, Mackenzie Blazek, as most Warrior opponents do. That combined with guard Sidney Crowe’s aggressive first-half play (eight points in the half, 14 overall) gave Napier plenty of looks.
“My teammates were looking for me, and if the shot is open, I’m going to take it, but my teammates know I’m going to look for them, too,” Napier said. “This was a big win. It will help us keep going.”
Whiteland improved to 5-5 with the win, while Indian Creek fell to 9-3. The victory was the Warriors’ second straight over the Braves, but Indian Creek had won the previous five meetings.
The Braves appeared poised for a big comeback Tuesday, ending the third quarter with a 9-0 run to cut the Warriors’ lead to 44-40 after Whiteland had built a 44-31 lead with 2:12 to play in the period.
Whiteland, however, responded by scoring the fourth quarter’s first six points, and Indian Creek never drew closer than eight points after that.
“I thought we did a good job of cutting into the lead, and I was happy at the end of the third quarter,” Burkman said. “We spent two days in practice talking about Napier and saying she was the one player we didn’t want to leave. We’re a young team, and we haven’t really honed in and developed the mental part of our game.”
Napier and Crowe’s first-half scoring drew increased defensive attention, which opened the post for Blazek.
She struggled in the first half, scoring just two points while shooting 1 of 6, but finished with 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Crowe added 14 points and seven boards.
The Warriors’ Kate White hounded Indian Creek standout Candace Danz defensively. Danz finished with 16 points, tying Addie Rund for team-high honors, but hit just 5 of 15 field-goal tries.
“Kate is one of the best on-the-ball defenders that we have and that I’ve coached,” Shipp said. “Every night, she draws the toughest person on the other team, and she was quick, active and physical.”
Whiteland is off until Dec. 23, when it hosts Perry Meridian. Indian Creek plays next Tuesday at Greenwood.