The Whiteland girls basketball team wasn’t about to take its only Class 2A opponent of the season lightly.

As a result, a focused Warriors squad put together a strong fourth quarter and capitalized at the free-throw stripe to defeat the Tigers 68-60 on Tuesday.

Senior center Mackenzie Blazek led all scorers with 28 points for Whiteland (8-1), which also received 18 from junior guard Natalie Stuck. Forward Toni Joyner, a sophomore, finished with nine points and led all rebounders with nine.

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Warriors coach Kyle Shipp knew playing the second-ranked team in Class 2A — one that came in with a 22-game regular-season winning streak — would be a grind. Triton Central, boasting the state’s 10th-highest scoring average at 67 points per outing, dropped to 9-1.

“I know that we were their only regular-season loss last year, and we’ll probably be their only loss this year,” Shipp said. “They’re coached well, they play hard and they do a lot of great things.

“We stressed that the most important game of our season is the game that we’re playing. That’s what we look at and we take it game by game. We want to try to be better than when we came in.”

The first half included six lead changes and nine ties before Blazek’s short turnaround in the lane with 8.5 seconds remaining gave the Warriors a 32-30 lead at the break.

Blazek tallied 16 of her points before halftime.

Triton Central trailed only 42-40 late in the third quarter, when the Warriors scored seven straight to open up a nine-point spread. The Tigers battled back to as close as five (52-47) with 4:35 remaining in the fourth, but, again, Whiteland was up to the task.

Two free throws from Stuck, a Blazek hoop and junior guard Taylor Klenner’s layup produced much-needed breathing room. Triton Central never got closer than seven points as the hosts converted eight of 12 free throw attempts in the final 1:58.

The Trojans placed two in double figures, with left-handed freshman forward Tenleigh Phelps scoring 20 to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Maya Chandler, a sophomore guard, added 15 points.

Whiteland is home Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Mid-State Conference foe Martinsville.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.