This was the game the Greenwood boys basketball team had been waiting for.
Heading into Friday night’s clash with county and Mid-State Conference rival Whiteland, the Woodmen had fallen short in every close game they’d had this season, including consecutive two-point league losses to Martinsville and Franklin.
A 61-53 upset of the Warriors, however, was exactly what Greenwood wanted heading into next week’s Johnson County Tournament and the second half of its schedule.
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“We needed it,” said junior Eric Moenkhaus, who paced the Woodmen (5-5, 1-2) with a game-high 21 points. “We knew it was coming, though. After all the hard work in practice, coach (Bruce Hensley) yelling at us — we knew we could do it. We just had to play together more.”
Greenwood’s improved cohesiveness was noticeable from the outset. The Woodmen reeled off 15 unanswered points during the final 3:15 of the first period to take a 17-4 lead into the second. Moenkhaus had the hot hand early for Greenwood, scoring 10 points during the blitz.
The Warriors, though, managed to hang around almost all night long. Michael Valle and Brennan Neal scored the first eight points of the second quarter to cut it to 17-12, and after a Greenwood surge bumped the margin back to double digits, Whiteland had another 7-0 run to get within four.
Moenkhaus, though, closed the half with a putback to make it 27-21.
Whiteland (7-2, 1-1) cut the deficit to two on four different occasions in the third quarter without getting over the hump, and Greenwood created some breathing room early in the fourth, building an eight-point advantage with 4:48 remaining.
The Warriors made one last push, getting as close at 54-53 on a pair of Valle free throws at the 2:04 mark, but all three chances they had to tie the game in the final quarter came up empty.
Braydon Kincaid and Max Raker had 12 points apiece while Adam Rapp and Jeffrey Reynolds each added eight for Greenwood, which got all of its points from its starting lineup. Valle and Neal had 18 and 10 points, respectively, for Whiteland.
The Warriors still head into next week’s Johnson County tourney as the top seed, and they’ll be playing on their home court. The Woodmen, though, have momentum and snowballing confidence on their side after a victory that had the gym buzzing well after the closing horn.
“It gives us a large amount of confidence,” Moenkhaus said. “Every one of us played good; no one had a bad game, so we all just got lifted today.”