Senior nights aren’t supposed to be punctuated with a loss, so Whiteland’s boys basketball team made it a point not to let one happen Friday night.
A 74-69 victory against visiting Beech Grove sent the Warriors’ seven seniors off to postseason play on a positive note.
Senior forward Tom Purdie led all scorers with 27 points and contributed a game-high 10 rebounds as Whiteland concluded the regular season with a 17-5 record.
Another senior starter, point guard Terr’e Moss, added 19 points.
Not the prettiest game by any stretch of the imagination — the Warriors turned the basketball over 22 times compared to the Hornets’ 21 — but defeating a quality opponent in late-February always makes for a good momentum-builder at just the right time.
“Some of those turnovers were unforced errors, but some of them were forced by Beech Grove,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said.
“I do think sometimes the last game of the year gets sloppy. Kids have a tendency to look ahead to Tuesday night. The most exciting part tonight was picking up our 17th win and the seniors going out with a victory at home.”
The Warriors trailed only once, at 10-8, though the game remained close throughout.
Whiteland led 68-65 with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter after Hornets’ junior guard Dylan Allen sank three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Moss countered with a runner in the lane, but BG’s Chase Andries countered at the other end to return the spread to three points.
It’s here Whiteland closed with a 4-2 run on free throws from Will Higdon and Purdie and a basket in low from 6-foot-2 senior forward Aaron Eblen with 17.8 ticks showing.
“One of the things that we’ve learned is that in close game experience pays off,” Wadsworth said. “Last year they were tight and nervous and made turnovers and missed free throws in key situations. Now you see us knock down free throws and get defensive shutouts.”
The 6-4 Purdie after going 30 points, 13 boards in last week’s Mid-State Conference loss to Martinsville followed it up with another outstanding performance.
He knows it will take the Warriors’ best effort to make a run at winning the Class 4A Martinsville Sectional beginning on Tuesday.
“Beech Grove is a good team that gets up and down the floor and creates turnovers. It’s just about getting the win at the end. We came through when it mattered and got a good win tonight,” Purdie said. “We have momentum and we’re just looking to build on it.”
A 3-pointer from junior reserve forward Aaron Gross at the halftime buzzer was the seventh for Whiteland in the first half as the Warriors settled in with a 42-38 lead.
Five of the team’s triples were in the first quarter – Moss delivering three and Purdie two — to lead Whiteland to a 27-18 advantage after one. Also playing a pivotal role in the Warriors’ early dominance was seven first-quarter turnovers by Beech Grove.
The Hornets’ strong second stanza pulled them back in it, however.
Beech Grove tied the score at 33-all and 36-36, but a baseline trey by freshman guard Brennan Neal at 2:03 and an old-fashioned three-point sequence from Neal in both instances put Whiteland back on top.
Whiteland now begins preparations for next week’s Class 4A Martinsville Sectional. The Warriors face Center Grove (8-15) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the first game.