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Taller Roncalli squad overpowers Whiteland

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Whiteland’s girls basketball team continues to finish games strong, coach Kyle Shipp says. Unfortunately for the Warriors, slow starts continue to plague them, as well, and that’s what decided Tuesday’s game against visiting Roncalli.

The Rebels, ranked No. 17 in Class 4A, held Whiteland to just two first-half field goals while building a 27-7 halftime lead. That paved the way for Roncalli’s 43-25 victory, which kept it undefeated at 4-0 and dropped the host Warriors to 3-5.

Whiteland outscored Roncalli 13-4 in the fourth quarter but managed only 12 points in the first three periods. Shipp said his team needs to start games more aggressively.

“It’s like we’re testing the waters instead of coming out crisp,” Shipp said. “I wasn’t real pleased with the way we started, which is why I called two timeouts early. We’ve got to develop the mentality that we know we can win.”

Roncalli started three players who stand 6 feet tall and another (Morgan Hendricks) who’s 5-10, and the Rebels used their size, along with an aggressive 2-3 zone defense, to completely shut down Whiteland’s inside game. They forced 14 first-half turnovers, and the Warriors only managed four field-goal attempts inside 3-point range in the half.

“We like the 2-3; it’s a great neutralizer, and we try to play it just like Syracuse does,” Roncalli coach April McDivitt said. “We took good, high-percentage shots, and we had a lot of diversity on offense.”

Roncalli shot 20 of 44 (45.4 percent) for the game but hit 13 of 25 in the first half (52 percent) and had four players score at least eight points. Whiteland hit just 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) from the floor, including 3 of 21 from 3-point range.

“We talked about not settling for the first 3-point shot, but when you dig yourself a hole like that, sometimes you have to take them,” Shipp said. “But 21 threes is a lot. We couldn’t get (senior Michaela) Harris the ball (inside) because of their length.”

Harris finished with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds, but eight of those points came in the fourth quarter. Chelsea Perry led Whiteland and tied for game-high honors with 13 points.

Roncalli’s Bridget Perry, who is 6-2, matched Harris’ 13 points and also pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. Elizabeth Bowers added 10 points and six rebounds, while Kellie Kirkhoff and Lindsey Corsaro each scored eight for the Rebels. Kirkhoff, at 5-foot-5, was the lone Rebel starter shorter than 5-foot-10.

Roncalli is off until next Tuesday, when it plays at Indianapolis Lutheran in a first-round Marion County Tournament game. Whiteland plays host to Mid-State Conference rival Plainfield on Saturday.

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