One of the worst shooting performances of Mackenzie Blazek’s career wasn’t going to stop the Whiteland girls basketball player.
Despite misfiring on numerous field-goal attempts in close, the senior center found other ways to contribute in the Warriors’ 37-31 victory against host Franklin in the first round of the Johnson County Tournament.
Blazek, who finished 8 of 26 from the floor and 17 points, produced key fourth-quarter passes to set up inside baskets from guards Natalie Stuck and Megan Harlow. Blazek finished with a game-high 19 rebounds as Whiteland won the battle of the glass 36-24.
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“It’s obviously frustrating when I’m not putting the ball in the basket, but my teammates are the best when they can finish off my passes,” Blazek said. “Someone’s got to score, so if it’s not me, they can.”
Whiteland’s triumph against the Grizzly Cubs sets up Friday’s semifinal contest at Franklin against Edinburgh at approximately 7:30 p.m. Due to Greenwood playing in a football semistate Friday, the other semi between the Woodmen and Center Grove will be played Thursday at 6 p.m. at Franklin.
On Tuesday, both teams shot poorly from the floor. Whiteland was 16 of 60 (.267) compared to Franklin’s 10 of 45 (.222).
And though Blazek didn’t score a point the final eight minutes, her ability to locate open teammates proved clutch after Franklin freshman guard Kyra Baker tied the game at 31-all with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“I thought we did a really nice job getting her the ball and then she found open people, and our open people converted,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said after watching his squad become the program’s first 3-0 starter since the 2010-11 season.
“Those are huge plays for us. I felt like we kind of controlled our destiny on the defensive end. We brought the defensive intensity the entire game.”
The game was close throughout with the final tally being the largest lead by either team.
Franklin’s impressive third quarter enabled the Cubs to hold a pair of three-point leads — the last being on sophomore Abby DeArmitt’s mid-range jumper at 2:13 of the third.
But two Blazek hoops followed by Stuck’s runner at the buzzer put the Warriors back up by three with a quarter to play. Baker’s triple 50 seconds into the period were the Grizzly Cubs’ lone points in the fourth.
Senior guard Maya Elliott scored 10 points and grabbed 12 boards to lead Franklin (2-3) in both categories.
“If you hold a team to 37 points and only hold them to six points in the fourth, we’ll take that any day,” Grizzly Cubs coach Josh Sabol said. “Offensively, we’ve got to be better. That’s me. My thing is offense and I’ve got to put us in better situations where we can score the basketball and use everyone’s skillset.
“But we’re learning and we’re growing. I’m encouraged by it. We’re hanging right there with all these big-time teams and we’ll get better.”