The Whiteland boys basketball team knew that in order to get any opportunity to get close in its home game against Mooresville, its inside game needed to work wonders against the tall Pioneers frontcourt.
While Bryce Staker put up 13 points for the Warriors, nine coming in the first half, it was Pioneers forward Jeremy Johnson who caused problems all night, scoring 27 points in the Warriors’ 73-51 loss.
“We were having trouble finding openings,” Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said. “They kept getting big runs on us, and we tried to slow them down with our zone defense, but they kept hitting big.”
The Warriors (6-9, 1-3 Mid State Conference) were hurt early by a 12-2 run from the Pioneers in the first quarter, with Johnson scoring 10 points in the run. The Pioneers (13-2, 4-0) led 18-11 after the first.
The offensive attack of the Warriors came alive in the second quarter, going on a 5-0 run in the first two minutes, with Staker connecting on five points and five rebounds.
But the rhythm of the Pioneers came through yet again,
scoring on a seven point run and connecting on three 3-point shots to put Mooresville up at the half 40-24.
Staker scored nine points in the first half.
“I wanted to get going early,” Staker said. “I give a lot of credit to the team for giving me a lot of open opportunities, especially in the second quarter.”
Forward Tom Purdie got the offense going for the Warriors in the third quarter, scoring the final seven points, but the heavy-hitting shots of the Pioneers left the Warriors far behind 53-37 going into the fourth.
The Pioneers took total control of the fourth quarter, going on a 15-5 run early in the quarter to outscore the Warriors 20-14.
“We had a solid effort in the second half, even though we didn’t pull out the win,” Purdie said. “They had a tall front to work with and it was hard to get points inside. We had to rely on our outside shooting for much of the second half.”
Purdie finished with 11 points, all coming in the second half.
“We wanted to try to find chances to get transition points like the first half,” Purdie said. “They kept attacking with big shots, and we couldn’t find an answer for it.”
Wadsworth said the opportunities were minimal when going inside to score.
“Their length got to us tonight,” Wadsworth said of Mooresville. “We couldn’t get inside, and had to rely on offensive rebounds and second chance shots to get points inside.”
With a few conference games remaining, Staker said the team needs to bounce back.
“We have to play unselfish basketball,” Staker said of the Warriors. “We have to keep our heads up after a game like this and help each other out and improve.”
“We have to have a positive attitude,” Purdie said. “This is just a road block. We know we can get better from here and that’s what we plan on doing.”