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Fast start helps Warriors advance to semis

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Tuesday night’s rematch between Whiteland and Greenwood, this time in the first round of the Johnson County Tournament, played out much differently than the rivals’ regular-season meeting Saturday.

The end result, however, was the same.

The Warriors, who routed the Woodmen 71-37 at home in the teams’ Mid-State Conference match-up, appeared poised for a similar blowout win after building a 13-1 first-quarter lead Tuesday.

This time, however, host Greenwood kept things competitive. The Woodmen cut an 18-point deficit down to seven on four occasions in the fourth quarter, but Whiteland pulled away each time and eventually earned a 55-41 victory.

The win places the Warriors (6-5) in Friday’s semifinal game against host Franklin (6-2), with tip-off set for 6 p.m. Edinburgh, which defeated Indian Creek in Tuesday’s other first-round game, will face Center Grove (6-4) in Friday’s second game.

Greenwood (2-7) will face the Braves (3-7) in Saturday’s fifth-place game, set for 4 p.m. at Franklin.

While Whiteland’s sizzling start Tuesday proved to be the difference statistically, Warriors coach Matt Wadsworth was equally pleased with how Whiteland finished.

“Give our kids credit,” Wadsworth said. “We got the lead early, but (Greenwood) cut into it, and we made plays. It wasn’t just one player, and the last four or five games have been like that. It makes you harder to guard.”

Jacob Stidham led Whiteland with 15 points and also grabbed five rebounds, but he was one of four double-figure scorers. Terr’e Moss added 12 points for the Warriors, while teammates Tom Purdie and John Hubler added 11 apiece. Hubler also grabbed a team-best nine rebounds.

Stidham connected on 6 of 9 field-goal tries and hit all three of his free throws. Whiteland shot 47.4 percent from the floor (18 of 38) and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line (15 of 21).

“We knew we had to come out with the same intensity that we did Saturday,” Stidham said. “In the second half (when Greenwood came back), we weren’t valuing the ball as much and rushed our offensive sets, but we definitely pushed up the intensity late.”

Jaren Hornbeak almost single-handedly led the Woodmen back in the second half. He scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the half and connected on 7 of 14 from the floor in the second half after hitting just 3 of 12 first-half tries. He also grabbed nine rebounds.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to score more points,” said Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley. “You can’t score 41 points and expect to win. Our guys’ effort was much better than in the last game against Whiteland. The kids played really hard. We just couldn’t score.”

Spencer Isenthal and Nate Jones each scored five points off the bench for Greenwood, all in the second half. No other Woodmen player scored more than three.

Greenwood trailed 26-10 at halftime and 30-12 with 5:12 remaining in the third quarter, but the Woodmen rallied, outscoring Whiteland 19-8 duri8ng the next seven minutes to make it 38-31 with 6:05 to play.

The Warriors never let Greenwood score more than four straight points the rest of the way, however, and eventually the Woodmen were forced to foul. Whiteland hit 11 of 15 fourth-quarter free throws.

“Greenwood started out last year 0-9 and then won seven of their next 10 games, so their kids are competitors,” Wadsworth said. “We’ve played much better over the last four weeks.”

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