Whiteland and Decatur Central put on somewhat of an offensive show Friday night, combining for 161 points and 50.4 percent field-goal shooting.
But a defensive play made the difference.
The Warriors’ Trent Sandlin attempted a 3-pointer with time running down in overtime and the host Hawks clinging to a three-point lead. Decatur Central’s C.B. Bennett blocked the shot, and time expired as players battled for the rebound, giving host the Hawks an 82-79 Mid-State Conference victory.
The game featured a pair of teams that entered play with a combined 9-21 record, but they battled as if a championship was on the line.
Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth and Decatur Central coach Joe Preda were impressed with both teams’ offensive playmaking and intensity.
“It was an entertaining game for the fans,” Wadsworth said. “We talked this week about having fun, taking the fight to the other team, playing hard defensively and being the aggressor.
“All of those things play a role in making the game fun, and we did that.”
Whiteland senior John Hubler poured in a game-high 34 points, connecting on 11 of 18 from the floor, 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and 7 of 12 from 3-point range. He scored the game’s first seven points, converted two four-point plays, and the majority of his baskets came on contested shots.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him shoot the ball with people on him,” Preda said of Hubler. “Our defense wasn’t the greatest, but this game was more about offensive execution on both sides.”
Decatur Central’s T.J. Helm scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, matching Bennett for game-high honors, and hit 12 of 15 from the floor. Most of his field goals came on drives to the basket.
Bennett added 19 points, while Antoine Divine contributed 14. Adam Preda and Tommy Stevens scored 11 points apiece for the Hawks (4-11 overall, 3-3 Mid-State). Stevens’ 3-pointer from
the left wing with 12 seconds
remaining tied the game 69-69 and forced overtime.
Jacob Stidham added 14 points and a team-best eight rebounds for Whiteland (6-11 overall, 1-4 Mid-State), and Sandlin added 14 points off the bench.
Hubler’s second four-point play came with 2:09 remaining in overtime and gave the Warriors a 77-76 lead. Divine responded with a layup 26 seconds later, then Stidham missed a short jumper in the lane. Helm scored on a post basket with 1:15 remaining to give the Hawks an 80-77 edge.
Neither team scored again until Hubler drove the baseline for a layup with 21 seconds remaining. Hubler fouled Bennett with 14.4 seconds remaining, and he hit both foul shots to give Decatur Central an 82-79 lead.
Whiteland worked the ball around, then called timeout with 2.4 seconds remaining.
“I want us to be the aggressor, so when we get shots in the paint, we’re going to take them,” Wadsworth said of Stidham’s miss. “This was a tough loss, but I’m proud of our kids. This was a team that plays a pressure defense similar to Center Grove or Franklin Central, and this was the most efficient we’ve been in our motion offense in the last 1½ years.”
Whiteland shot 28 of 57 from the floor (49.1 percent) and 11 of 23 from 3-point range (47.8 percent). Decatur Central, meanwhile, connected on 30 of 58 from the floor (51.7 percent) and 15 of 18 from the free-throw line (83.3 percent). Whiteland hit 12 of 15 from the foul line (80 percent).