After three-straight losses by a combined 10 points, Whiteland’s boys basketball team hopes it’s generating positive energy after advancing to the Johnson County Tournament semifinals.
The host Warriors won their second of back-to-back games against Greenwood on Tuesday, cruising to an 80-33 victory in the first-round game at the Johnson County Tournament. Whiteland also defeated Greenwood, 59-28, on Saturday in a Mid-State Conference game on the Woodmen court.
The victory advances Whiteland (5-5) to Friday’s semifinals where it will face Center Grove (5-5) at about 7:30 p.m. The Trojans handed the Warriors one of those close losses, 44-41, on Dec. 14.
Greenwood (0-9) will play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the consolation bracket against Indian Creek (8-2), which lost to Edinburgh in Tuesday’s other first-round game.
“Ownership of the team has to shift at some point of every season to the players, and after those three close losses, we’re trying to push in that direction,” said Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth. “We’ve had good enthusiasm in practice, and everybody feels good that we’ve shown some progress.”
Tuesday’s game didn’t have much drama. The Warriors jumped to 15-4 and 33-11 leads in the first half, and all but one starter sat out most of the fourth quarter.
Dejan Davis and Kyle Alford helped spark Whiteland’s big start. Alford scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, while Davis scored 10 of his game-high 17 in the first half.
All 13 Whiteland players that earned minutes scored, and seven scored at least five points. Ethan Wilson and Hollie Allen scored eight and seven points, respectively, off the bench, while starting point guard Austin Fruits also scored seven. Jacob Stidham led Whiteland with six rebounds off the bench.
“We had the same effort on both ends of the court when we went to the bench, and just as much production,” Wadsworth said. “We had more flow and rhythm than we had earlier in the season. When you have a first-year coach, defense comes quicker than offense, and we’re finally recognizing situations where we want to score.”
Whiteland hit 29 of 54 field-goal tries, good for 53.7 percent. It didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second quarter and finished the game with 11. Five of those miscues came in the fourth quarter when the Warriors played mostly second-teamers.
Greenwood, meanwhile, shot just 24 percent from the floor (12 of 50). Raddell Waddy and Brandon Petty tied Greenwood for team-high scoring honors with eight points each, while Jaren Hornbeak added six points and a team-best six rebounds. LaRon Patterson also grabbed six rebounds.
“We played worse than we did (against Whiteland) Saturday,” said Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley. “We wanted to compete, and we didn’t do that.”