With a share of the Mid-State Conference title on the line, Whiteland’s best effort barely fell short.
Martinsville’s 75-70 victory on the Warriors’ home court Friday night enabled coach Kip Staggs’ Artesians to share the league crown with Franklin Community.
Both finished with identical 5-1 Mid-State records, while the Warriors finish third in the final standings with a 4-2 mark.
A game in which there were 22 occasions when the game was either tied or the point spread was a single point turned Martinsville’s way on a pair of clutch 3-pointers late.
Triples by senior guard Tim Bowlen and 6-foot-8 swingman Keegan Northern 26 seconds apart turned a 66-all tie into a six-point Artesians lead with 2 minutes left in the fourth.
Whiteland never got closer than three points from that point.
“I thought both teams played extremely hard and laid it on the line. I was proud of our guys. Not just the way we competed tonight, but the way we’ve competed over the course of the season,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said.
“The thing that you tell the team in the locker room is you win as a team and you lose as a team. Don’t forget how this feels because the (Class 4A Martinsville) sectional is right around the corner.”
Warriors’ senior swingman Tom Purdie scored a game-high 30 points — 18 in the opening quarter — to go along with 13 rebounds in a losing effort. Junior Mike Valle’ utilized his 6-7 frame to score 24 points for Whiteland (15-5).
That’s 77 percent of the Warriors’ point total coming from two players.
Martinsville proved much more balanced with four players in double-figures. Northern’s 22 points led the way. He was followed by senior guard Zach Anderson’s 16, Bowlen’s 15 and guard Logan Ratts’ 13.
“We played with more poise and composure in the second half than we did in the first half. In the first half we were rushed, a little out of sync. We finally settled down in the second half, but Purdie was fantastic,” Staggs said.
“It was an outstanding game to be a part of, for sure. Whiteland’s an outstanding team, and to win on the road is a lot of credit to our guys. Our sectional is going to be fantastic. It’s very well-balanced and is going to be a shootout.”
A wild first half that included 12 Martinsville turnover concluded with Whiteland holding a 37-35 lead on the strength of Purdie’s 22 points.
Leading by as many as nine points (29-20) after freshman Brennan Neal splashed a triple from the left wing at 5:30 of the second, the Warriors watched the Artesians close with a 15-8 scoring run.
Martinsville’s last two points came on free throws by Northern with no time showing.
This after Northern had grabbed a defensive rebound at the opposite end of the floor, turned to hurl a desperation 65-foot 3-point attempt and was fouled.
Northern’s first charity was wiped out after he stepped over the free throw line; he made his final two attempts.
Whiteland’s last taste of a Mid-State title came in 2001-2002 when the Warriors were 5-0 against league competition (there were only six teams). From the start of the 2002-2003 campaign through last season the program was 26-47 in conference.
Whiteland plays its final regular-season road game tonight at New Palestine. The Warriors celebrate Senior Night next Friday when they host Beech Grove.