The Whiteland girls basketball team was determined to get a victory on its senior day Saturday. The fact that the game was against county and Mid-State Conference rival Franklin only heightened that determination.
Mackenzie Blazek got the Warriors going early, and Jessyca Napier and Natalie Stuck unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers late, as Whiteland started hot and never really cooled off in a 77-36 thrashing of the Grizzly Cubs.
“It meant a lot to us that this was our last home game, so we were just leaving it all out there on the floor,” Napier said.
Franklin (10-11, 2-3) had won the first meeting between the two schools, 44-37, in the semifinals of the Johnson County tournament back in November, and the Warriors hadn’t forgotten.
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“We definitely had payback on our minds,” said Blazek, who finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
The game was close in the early going, with a 3-pointer by Franklin’s Makenna Bertsch pulling her team within one at 12-11. But consecutive 3-point plays by Blazek and Sidney Crowe late in the first period gave Whiteland a bit of a cushion.
Blazek, who was held to just five points in the first game with Franklin, bested that number quickly. By halftime, she already had collected 13 points and nine boards, helping stake her team to a 34-21 advantage.
“When (Blazek) asserts herself and takes care of business down there, we’re really good when we knock down shots,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said.
Knocking down shots wasn’t a problem at all in the second half.
The Grizzly Cubs briefly got back within single digits, 34-26, with another Bertsch 3 early in the third quarter. But things quickly snowballed after that, with Napier hitting four of her six 3-pointers over the final 3:30 of the period to spearhead a 22-2 blitz that put the game away.
“You always want to leave your seniors on their last (home) game with a great performance, and I think we did that,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said.
Whiteland (10-11, 3-2) kept pulling away well into the fourth before both teams emptied their benches in the closing minutes.
Napier finished with 18 points for the Warriors, while Stuck, who also hit three 3-pointers, added 17 points and six steals. Crowe had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Allison Barnard scored 12 points to lead Franklin, which will get another crack at Whiteland during a sectional rubber match on Feb. 1.
“Moving forward, we’re definitely going to watch some film, prepare and make some adjustments, and we’ll be ready to go,” Franklin coach Josh Sabol said.