The second Greenwood-Whiteland boys basketball game in five days played for bigger stakes this time around.
With a berth in the Johnson County Tournament semifinals on the line, the visiting Woodmen on Tuesday gutted out a 58-55 overtime victory in a first-round game not intended for the faint of heart.
Four free throws by senior swingman Eric Moenkhaus in the final 9.3 seconds of OT moved Greenwood into the 6 o’clock semifinal against Franklin on Friday. This matchup and the second semi pitting Indian Creek against Center Grove will be held at the latter’s gymnasium.
“Coach (Bill) Harrell at Muncie Central, I’ll never forget, he used to say an ugly win is a lot better than a beautiful loss,” Woodmen coach Joe Bradburn said. “I always take that approach after a game, but we have so many things we did wrong tonight.
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“We break huddle sometimes and say the words, ‘Deserve it’, and tonight we’re trying to figure out whether we deserved it or not with all the mental lapses we had. The part we did deserve is I thought defensively we played hard and are getting better defensively.”
In a heated battle that even included one fan being removed from the gym for remarks being made at the officials, Greenwood finally appeared in control inside the final minute of overtime.
Greenwood led 54-50 after a free throw by Warriors guard Riley Higdon at the 50.8 second mark.
Shortly thereafter, Moenkhaus was whistled for a technical foul, which led to Higdon making three of four charities at 34.5. The senior’s drive to the basket resulted in a layup off glass and a Whiteland lead with 21.2 seconds showing.
Moenkhaus atoned with his free throws late, and it was the Woodmen improving to 8-2 on the season.
Higdon led all scorers with 20 points before fouling out with 9.3 seconds left; junior swingman Brennan Neal added 15. For Greenwood, Moenkhaus scored 16 and senior Braydon Kincaid 13. Senior post Jeffrey Reynolds secured game rebounding honors with eight.
“The real positive for us was we battled until the very end,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said. “Our players never looked at it as the game was over. I think that’s an important trait for a team to have.”
A first half of small scoring bursts saw Whiteland put together the final one – a pair of Crowe hoops in close tying the score at 29-29 at the break.
Greenwood previously led most the half by as many as five points (14-9), but the Warriors would always respond.
Leading 18-14 at 4:30 of the second period, Woodmen guard Kincaid was slapped with a technical foul after arguing what he thought was a clean block.
It resulted in four consecutive free throws by Neal and a Neal basket for a two-point Whiteland advantage. Consecutive triples from guards Max Raker and Isaiah Drew put Greenwood back on top until Crowe’s baskets late.
Whiteland (4-7) will now host Edinburgh in a tournament consolation game scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.