For the Daily Journal
Whiteland’s boys basketball team spoiled Martinsville’s bid for a share of the Mid-State Conference championship Friday night, and the primary culprits at the end were no surprise to anyone who watched the game.
Warriors senior point guard Riley Higdon stole an inbounds pass with 16.7 seconds left and the Artesians trailing by three. He then fed a streaking Brennan Neal for a game-clinching dunk, which closed out the scoring in Whiteland’s home 51-46 victory.
The Warriors (10-10, 2-4 Mid-State) ended Martinsville’s seven-game winning streak and ruined the Artesians’ chance at forcing a four-way tie for the Mid-State crown. Martinsville entered the game at 13-6 overall and 3-2 in the conference.
Higdon finished with a game-high seven assists, five of which went to Neal, but the last one was the most emphatic and decisive.
“We knew they would run that out-of-bounds play,” Higdon said of his game-sealing steal and assist. “I stepped in the way, and I was going to try to draw a foul, but then I saw Neal upcourt. He’s a good cutter, and he’s a good shooter, too, so he’s hard to guard.”
Neal finished with a game-high 24 points, connecting on 9 of 17 from the field, and nine of his points game in the fourth quarter.
The game featured nine ties and seven lead changes, with neither squad able to build more than a nine-point lead. The Warriors led 28-19 after a 10-0 run that spanned the second and third quarters, but the Artesians pieced together a 7-0 run in the third quarter and a 6-0 spurt early in the fourth quarter, which gave them a 40-38 lead with 5:53 to play.
Whiteland took the lead for good, 43-41, on an Elijah Weatherspoon 3-pointer with 4:29 to play, but couldn’t push the lead above one possession until Higdon’s steal at the end.
“As a team, we’re starting to gain momentum these last two weeks,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said of the Warriors, who started the season 0-5 but have won four of their last five. “(Friday) is just a continuation of that momentum.
“Riley seems to have a nose for the ball. He had four fouls, but we needed his speed on the court. Martinsville’s goal is to slow the game down, and we wanted to push the ball. Getting the layups we did was big for us.”
Whiteland used only seven players, but all seven scored. Carter Crowe added seven points and five rebounds for the Warriors, while Chase Ferguson pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Whiteland returns to action tonight at New Palestine.