Whiteland Community High School sophomore Mackenzie Blazek was fighting a cold, which created a double problem.
The cold medicine dehydrated her and made her calves cramp, forcing her to the bench for about two minutes early in the game. The left calf cramped first then the right one.
“Fortunately, the trainer rubbed it out, and I had some Gatorade, and I was good to go back in,” Blazek said.
That was big, as the 6-foot-2 Blazek had two big baskets in the closing minutes as the Warriors knocked off New Palestine 47-37 in the first round of the Center Grove Sectional.
Whiteland (14-9) will play Greenwood (14-9) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Greenwood won both previous meetings this season, 58-52 in the Johnson County Tournament final Nov. 21 and 62-57 on Jan. 8.
With the score tied at 37, the Warriors scored the final 10 points starting with a two free throws by Ashley West with 4:33 left.
“Had (Blazek) stayed out, I think they would have been in trouble,” said New Palestine coach Brian Kehrt, whose team finished with a 16-7 record.
“It’s nice to have that girl that you can lob the ball into and get instant offense. To their credit, they did a nice job of hitting their shots and free throws. We had a couple of turnovers late that don’t usually happen.”
Blazek, who has had leg cramps a couple times this season, but not of late, scored 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Kate White led the Warriors with 14 points, hitting 4 of 9 shots and 5 of 6 free throws.
Whiteland as a team was 16 of 33 from the field.
“It was a good win for our seniors,” Blazek said. “We didn’t want to go home yet.”
Whitland coach Kyle Shipp said his team was able to survive a battle of spurts.
“We are becoming a seasoned team that not much fazes us,” Shipp said. “We’re a little bit older now and we play with a calm sense to us. I thought Mackenzie did a great job passing the ball early, and late in the game I thought she did dominating the paint.”
West hit a short jumper at the buzzer to give Whiteland a 27-16 lead at halftime.
The Warriors, who led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter, expanded the lead to 17-7 before the Dragons went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 17-13.
White started an 8-0 run for the Warriors with a 3-pointer. Jessyca Napier followed with a 3-pointer in the spurt.
The Dragons limited Blazek to four points in the first half.
New Palestine closed the gap to 35-33 at the end of the third quarter.
“We said they were going to make a run at us and they did,” Shipp said. “I’m proud of my team responding.”
Kehrt said his team showed a gutsy effort.
“We didn’t play our best game,” Kehrt said. “We didn’t shoot particularly well (13 of 45 from the field and 7 of 13 from the free throw line). We turned the ball over. We did a lot of bad things. These kids for the last three years for me have never ever quit.
“As bad as it feels right now, the seniors are going to appreciate the legacy they’ve left behind in building this program form ashes to where it is now. One that is respected again.”
Natalie Kehrt, the coach’s daughter, was one of those five seniors the Dragons are losing.
“It’s awful hard to say goodbye to these seniors,” coach Kehrt said.
Junior Raegan McMurray led the Dragons with 13 points.