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Late surges lift Greenwood past scrappy Whiteland

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No telling how deep Greenwood’s girls basketball team could go this postseason if only the final four minutes of each quarter counted.

Woodmen coach Debbie Guckenberger is in no hurry to find out.

Her team literally saved its best for last in Friday night’s 40-32 victory against county rival Whiteland, outscoring the Warriors by a total of 30-9 when factoring in the last half of the four quarters.

The semifinal win at the Class 4A sectional at Franklin Community High School moved 12th-ranked Greenwood (18-4) into tonight’s 7:30 championship game opposite No. 9 Franklin Central (18-4). The Flashes advanced by defeating New Palestine 61-23 in Friday’s second semifinal.

This marks the first time in eight years the programs will meet, the Flashes scoring a 53-28 decision against the Woodmen in a first-round sectional game in February 2005.

“They are very athletic and they defend very well,” said Guckenberger of a Franklin Central team that takes the floor having won nine of its past 10 games. “It’s going to be tough.”

Not that Friday’s battle against Whiteland resembled a picnic.

After dropping a 43-42 thriller at Greenwood on Jan. 4, coach Kyle Shipp’s Warriors had all the confidence necessary to go toe-to-toe with the Woodmen.

This was demonstrated early as Whiteland marched to a 7-2 advantage and even late with Whiteland trailing by only four points with 5:31 remaining in the game.

But just like it did when it

finished the first quarter with a 9-0 scoring run and the second with a 10-0 burst, Greenwood capitalized down the stretch.

A one-handed runner off the glass by senior guard Jordan Unversaw at 5:18 made it 32-26. Nearly three minutes of clock would be exhausted before more points were scored, and they were huge with Woodmen forward Deauna Evans burying a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:23 showing to push the margin to nine.

“That’s huge late in the game, but I’ll give you two others that were huge. The shot they hit at the end of the first quarter and the shot they hit right before halftime,” said Shipp, alluding to Sarah McLeod’s buzzer-beating chippy and Kelsie Ratliff’s trey from the top of the key, respectively.

“Our kids fought. They gave a great effort tonight. What I told them after the game was I was proud of how they battled and proud of the people they are. I have no doubt they will all be successful people in life.”

All five of Whiteland’s starters are seniors who Friday played their final game in a Warriors uniform. Guard Chelsea Perry produced a team-high 12 points before fouling out late, with backcourt mate Kaitlyn Phillips adding 11.

Leading all scorers with 21 was the 5-foot-9 Ratliff, who drained three triples and also contributed to Greenwood’s sizable 30-20 rebounding advantage with four boards of her own. Neither team shot well, the Woodmen making 13 of 38 field goals (.342) compared to Whiteland’s 11 of 42 (.262).

“It’s always down to the wire. It’s always going to be a battle when we play Whiteland. They are a good team that is well-coached and plays hard,” Guckenberger said. “I felt the key tonight was that we did a much better job defensively than we did the first time we played them this season.”

Greenwood, which has six seniors of its own, received six points and four rebounds from the 5-10 Evans. Six-foot junior post Brittany Gray came off the bench to record a game-best eight boards for the Woodmen, her total barely eclipsing 5-10 forward Michaela Harris, who led Whiteland (10-12) with seven.

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