Whiteland’s boys basketball series with Beech Grove carries deep roots.
The game played Friday night was the 78th between the programs in a rivalry which dates all the way back to the 1926-27 season.
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And while there’s no way to determine where the latest matchup ranks historically in terms of suspense and quality of play, the Hornets’ 76-70 overtime victory probably will have its share of supporters.
Lightning-quick junior guard Kenny Washington scored a game-high 22 points to lead Beech Grove, which snapped a three-game losing streak to the Warriors.
“Both teams played extremely hard,” said Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth after watching four of his five starters finish in double-figures. “What I put on the board for us is three things I believe we have to take away from tonight’s game to be prepared for sectional.
“We have to have a better understanding of time and score. In the first half, our execution at the end of quarters was poor. Also, defensively down the stretch, we gave up too many layups. The third thing was just execute sets.”
During the dramatic fourth quarter, Whiteland, which led 52-47 through three, fell behind and then caught back up to tie the score at 61-61 with 2:33 remaining.
Hornets senior guard Chase Andries scored down low at with 49.5 ticks showing. Whiteland junior guard Noah Hale sent the game to OT by knocking down a 12-foot baseline jumper at 8.6 seconds.
Beech Grove dominated the additional four minutes. Its 7 of 8 free throw accuracy over the final 2:01 of overtime put the game away.
Sophomore swingman Brennan Neal led Whiteland with 18 points, while seniors Aaron Gross and Mike Valle both finished with 15. Junior point guard Elijah Weatherspoon made three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
History was made with 45.3 seconds left in OT as the 6-foot-7 Valle scored his 1,000th and 1,001st career points by making both free throws.
Given the Hornets’ defensive quickness, Wadsworth was satisfied with his team only turning the basketball over eight times.
“When you look at our sectional, handling the ball is going to be important,” he said. “I thought we stepped it up in that regard.”
Beech Grove scored the final six points of the second period to take a 36-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Warriors led 21-16 on a Weatherspoon triple 28 seconds into the second, but the Hornets put together a 12-0 scoring run to seemingly take command of the game.
However, Valle’s putback of his own miss and eventual three-point sequence at 4:42 began an 11-2 Whiteland run in which five different Warriors produced points.
Valle would sit the final 3:41 of the half after picking up his third personal foul.
On Tuesday at Franklin Central, the Warriors play against Martinsville at 7:30 p.m. in a first-round game in Class 4A Sectional 13.
Whiteland looks for a second victory this season against the Artesians having already downed them, 57-47, on Feb. 17.
Beech Grove plays Indian Creek on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Class 3A Danville Sectional.