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Strong finish has Warriors feeling ready

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Whiteland’s boys basketball team likely couldn’t have asked for a better sectional tuneup in terms of performance, opponent and confidence.

The host Warriors dominated Beech Grove, a team Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth compared to first-round sectional opponent Center Grove in terms of defensive strategy, in the second and fourth quarters Friday.

They also dominated most statistical categories and received contributions from everyone in a 62-45 victory that closed out regular-season play.

“They run a lot of the same defense that Center Grove does,” Wadsworth said of the Hornets. “Across the board, we got positive contributions, and each player looked confident and poised.”

Whiteland concluded the regular season with an 8-13 record but won two of its final three games. The Warriors will play the tournament-host host Trojans about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 4A Center Grove Sectional.

Beech Grove, which has split its past 20 meetings with Whiteland, ended its regular season with a 10-9 mark.

Trailing 13-8, the Warriors scored the first quarter’s last five points to forge a 13-all tie at the break. They broke the game open late in the first half with an 11-0 run that only took 1:41.

Four players scored during the spurt, including reserve post player Tom Purdie, who scored the final two baskets of the stretch, both transition layups. They gave Whiteland a 31-21 lead with 2:12 remaining in the first half, and the Hornets never drew closer than six points after that.

“We executed the game plan well,” said Jordan Buergelin, one of four seniors who started their final home game. “This was probably one of our top five games of the season, and we’ve made a lot of strides as a team since the start of the season.”

All eight Warriors who played scored at least three points, led by John Hubler’s 14. Bryce Staker added 12, Purdie scored nine, Terr’e Moss contributed eight, and Trent Sandlin and Jacob Stidham scored six points apiece.

Stidham led all players with seven rebounds and helped Whiteland claim a 33-19 rebounding edge.

Purdie and Staker, both 6-foot-3, routinely took advantage of their height and bulk advantage over the Hornets, who didn’t play anyone taller than 6-2. They also opened up the floor for Whiteland’s outside shooters, who hit 8 of 14 from 3-point range (57.1 percent).

The Warriors shot 23 of 40 from the floor (57.5 percent) and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.

“Purdie and Staker ran the floor and had their hands ready,” Wadsworth said. “Our offensive execution has improved over the last five or six games.”

Beech Grove, meanwhile, labored through a 13-of-47 field-goal shooting effort (27.7 percent). Joey Cardenas led the Hornets (10-9) with 18 points.

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