Longtime rivals Whiteland and Center Grove never let the other out of their sight Friday night in boys basketball action.
Ultimately, it was a drive to the basket by Warriors point guard Terr’e Moss that decided it.
Penetrating the lane for a scoop off the glass with 5.4 seconds remaining in overtime, the senior’s bucket enabled Whiteland to win 68-66, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans.
Now 4-1 entering tonight’s home game against Greenwood Christian Academy, the program owns its first four-game winning streak since starting 4-0 to open the 2008-09 season.
“I think for me what this game was about was, ‘Did we get better in practice this week?’ Offensively, we struggled a little bit, but we went inside and attacked the post. On my checklist, we were better than we were last week,” fourth-year Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said.
“We’re building toward March like everyone else. We want to be as good in March as we can possibly be. The consistent thing that I see is we play hard. It’s just team, team, team. You look back and you see different contributions from different guys.”
Senior forward Tom Purdie and 6-foot-7 junior forward Mike Valle tied for scoring honors with 19 points apiece for Whiteland. They also contributed nine and six rebounds, respectively, while reserve forward Ben Robison had nine points, and Moss and senior guard Will Higdon eight apiece.
Whiteland’s last victory in the series, a 67-60 decision during the 2011-12 season, also took place on the road — albeit in the Trojans’ West Gymnasium.
“It feels good. We played as a team and got the victory,” Valle said. “I think our experience helped us a lot. We just executed down the stretch and came out victorious.”
Center Grove (2-3) quickly inbounded the basketball following Moss’ layup, but sophomore Nate McLain’s heave just inside the midcourt stripe was off to the right.
Trojans senior guard Bailey Barrett led his team with 16 points, while 5-9 senior guard Trevor Harrell came off the bench to supply 14 points. Freshman post Lucas Doyle chipped in nine points and another frosh, 6-6 Trayce Jackson-Davis, had seven points and eight boards.
McLain also finished with eight points.
“I thought our guys really competed tonight. Whiteland came out and fought hard, and it was a back-and-forth type game. All in all, it comes down to last possession plays and the importance of taking it one possession at a time,” second-year Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said.
“Their last two baskets are layups and we’re taking contested shots. Give them credit. They did a great job defensively at the end, and we just have to get better in that area. Keeping guys in front. Finishing block outs. I saw a lot of really good things tonight. I think the last two games we battled. We’re going to hit bumps in the road, but it’s all about how you respond.”
Both squads struggled badly from the free throw line with Whiteland hitting 16 of 31 (.516) and Center Grove making 10 of 19 (.526).
Valle scored 11 of his points in the second quarter — in a row, no less — to lift Whiteland from what had been a 14-9 deficit to a 20-14 lead.
The Warriors would eventually settle in with a 29-26 halftime advantage.
Friday’s game also included an extended halftime during which representatives from MaxPreps and the Indiana National Guard honored members of Center Grove’s state championship football and boys soccer teams.
Coach Eric Moore’s Class 6A titlists in football finished No. 15 in the final MaxPreps poll; boys soccer, coached by former Trojans player Jameson McLaughlin, finished 18th nationally.