For the Daily Journal
Whiteland used an overwhelming advantage at the free throw line to pull away from New Palestine for a hard-fought 68-63 girls basketball win Friday.
The host Warriors outscored New Pal 20-1 from the charity stripe, much of which came courtesy of Mackenzie Blazek. The 6-foot-3 Illinois recruit was 10 of 12 from the line and scored a game-high 30 points.
She also grabbed her 1,000th career rebound early in the second quarter. Blazek is believed to be just the 15th player in state history with 1,000 points and 1,000 boards.
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“I’m very excited about it. I had 17 the last game so I needed only three coming in but I apparently couldn’t get a rebound in the first quarter,” Blazek said. “But really, I just want to win games. If (the milestone) happened, it happened. We’re now 12-1 and that’s all I can ask for.”
The game was everything you’d expect from two teams that came into the game with a combined 21-2 record. The largest lead either team held through the first three quarters was five — twice by New Palestine — and it was just a one-point game entering the fourth.
Whiteland led 44-43 to open the final period but surrendered that quickly when Megan Jolly hit a bucket to put New Palestine (10-2) ahead by one.
But the next six minutes belonged to the Warriors.
With all of the attention on Blazek, Whiteland’s other players stepped up. Toni Joyner hit back-to-back baskets and Megan Harlow erupted for three 3-pointers to key a 17-4 run that put the Warriors ahead 61-49 with 2:36 to play.
New Palestine wasn’t going to go away that quickly. The Dragons rediscovered their stroke and quickly ripped into the lead, pulling to within four (67-63) on a Haley Harrison 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go.
But Blazek hit a free throw on the other end — her only point of the fourth — and Whiteland held over the final 20 seconds for the win.
The one statistic that stood out was the free throw shooting — New Palestine was just 1-for-3 from the line compared to 20 of 30 for the Warriors. But New Palestine coach Sarah Gizzi didn’t make excuses.
“We had scouted them several times and the refs hadn’t called it that close for them. We felt like if they called it close there would be a lot because (Blazek) is such a good player,” Gizzi said. “But we don’t like to make excuses. We were up four at halftime and we were in the game, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Harlow finished with 19 points. She and Blazek accounted for over 70 percent of Whiteland’s scoring as the Warriors eclipsed their win total from all of last season.
Leah Seib led four Dragons in double figures with 17 points, while Jolly had 16.
Whiteland returns to action Dec. 28 when it competes in the Vincennes Rivet tournament.