Whiteland’s players had to be wondering if their shots would ever consistently fall through the basket Tuesday night.
The Warriors hit just 6 of 24 first-half field goal attempts, yet managed to play visiting Franklin to a 17-17 tie with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter in the opening round of the Johnson County girls basketball Tournament.
Finally, the Warriors scored six-straight points to close out the period, and their offensive confidence soared. They parlayed that into a 15-point fourth quarter and pulled away for a 38-29 victory.
Whiteland (2-1) will play Center Grove (3-0) in Thursday’s semifinal at Greenwood. Franklin (2-1) will play Edinburgh (0-3), which lost to Indian Creek in Tuesday’s other first-round game, in the consolation bracket at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Greenwood.
Monica Wagner’s bank shot with 2:17 left in the third quarter gave Whiteland the lead for good. A Michaela Harris layup and Kaitlyn Phillips jumper closed out the period and gave the Warriors a 23-17 edge. Whiteland hit 50 percent from the floor (4 of 8) in the fourth quarter after connecting on just 12 of 36 attempts during the first three periods.
“Seeing the ball go through the hoop helps,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said. “Phillips and Harris put us on their backs, and Chelsea Perry’s 3-pointer (with 2:39 remaining) put a dagger in them.”
The 3-pointer was Perry’s only basket, but it built the Warriors’ lead to 32-25 after Franklin’s Maci Eads had banked in a 3-pointer on the previous possession. That basket cut Whiteland’s lead to 29-25 with 2:58 remaining.
Phillips and Harris tied for game-high honors with 12 points each. Harris kept Whiteland’s offense moving in the first three quarters when she scored all of her points, while Phillips scored half of her points in the fourth quarter.
Whiteland’s defense frustrated Franklin into 24 turnovers, while the Warriors committed just 12. Whiteland finished shooting 16 of 44 from the field (36.4 percent), but Franklin hit just 10 of 38 from the floor, a 26.3-percent clip.
Franklin played without starting point guard Tara Parmer, who Coach Walt Raines said is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and starting forward Whitney Shapp.
“We had to put some kids in positions they normally wouldn’t be in, and had one day to prepare for it,” Raines said. “You can’t give teams 24 extra opportunities to score. We have to be sharper than we were. We had opportunities to get in the post and finish, and we didn’t do it.”
Danielle Phair and Sara VanDeman each scored seven points for the Grizzly Cubs, while Kylie Whittington added six points and shared game-high rebounding honors with six.