Whiteland’s girls basketball team beat Franklin by 41 points the last time the two teams met on Jan. 21. The Warriors never even reached the 41-point mark in Wednesday evening’s sectional opener against the Grizzly Cubs, but the end result was just as satisfying as the blowout had been.
Sidney Crowe scored 13 points, including four key free throws in the final period, and fed Ashley West for the go-ahead basket with 3:02 remaining as Whiteland rallied for a 35-31 victory in a back-and-forth affair.
The Warriors (11-13) move on to play host Martinsville in a semifinal game on Friday night.
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“An ugly win is better than a pretty loss,” Whiteland junior center Mackenzie Blazek said. “We would much rather advance than go home.”
The Grizzly Cubs (10-14) trailed by 10 early in the second half before holding Whiteland scoreless for nearly eight minutes and pulling ahead by as many as five before the Warriors regrouped, regaining the upper hand for good when West scored off an inbounds pass from Crowe, who helped seal it by hitting two free throws with 21.3 seconds to go. Franklin was held scoreless for the final 3:53 of the game.
“Both teams were missing a lot of shots, so it was pretty much who could get the most defensive stops at that point,” Crowe said. “We just all remembered that was our last game (if we lost), so we were just fighting for all the seniors that we have.”
Offensive rhythm was in short supply early. Each team managed just one basket over the first two and a half minutes, and Whiteland had a slim 9-7 advantage midway through the second quarter. The Warriors got going just before halftime, however, taking an 18-11 lead into the locker room after a late flurry that saw Mackenzie Blazek dish out three assists, the last of those setting up a Crowe 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.
Blazek assisted on a West 3 and added a bucket of her own to stretch the Whiteland edge to 23-13 with 5:22 remaining in the third period, but Franklin countered with a 15-0 run over the next 7:42, tying the score on two Delanie Hill free throws with 0.7 seconds on the third-quarter and taking a 28-23 lead on a top-of-the-key 3 by Hill with 5:40 to go in the fourth.
The Warriors finally stopped the bleeding with consecutive baskets by Blazek and Crowe, and Blazek tied the score at 31-31 on a drive at the 3:46 mark.
Blazek finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Whiteland. Hill paced Franklin with 12 points, while Maya Elliott totaled 11 points and 10 boards.
Franklin coach Josh Sabol praised his four outgoing seniors – Allison Barnard, Makenna Bertsch, Cami Cochrane and Hill – for setting a tone for the program, but he is also excited heading into his second season.
“We’ve got Maya Elliott coming back, but other than that we’re really young,” Sabol said. “But it’s exciting, too, because those kids can play. So I’m really looking forward to the future.”