Whiteland’s Wiatt McLaughlin drives to the basket in the first half with Jeremiah Tate defending.
By Al Stilley
In their final tune-ups for boys’ basketball sectionals, six Southside teams won their final games to enter the IHSAA playoffs with something they wanted – momentum.
“If coaches don’t act like momentum is real, they’re not telling the truth,” Whiteland coach Nate Cangany proclaimed after his Warriors spoiled senior night for Beech Grove, 59-55 in a thriller inside “The Hive” Friday.
Whiteland (9-14) stopped Beech Grove (14-6) after the Hornets had won seven consecutive games. The Warriors outrebounded and shot better than the Hornets, the defending 3A state champs.
Just two nights after BG’s Rylan Horen hit the final basket with 1.9 seconds left for a thrilling 62-60 win at Decatur Central, the Hornets fell victim to Whiteland’s defensive switches and hot shooting. The Warriors connected on 21 of 44 shots (44.7 percent), including seven of 14 from 3-point range and dominated the boards, 33-19 with 6-5 workhorse Brayden Roy snaring 12 rebounds.
Junior guard Wiatt McLaughlin put in a game-high 22 points with help from sophomore Gavin Stubbe’s 15 points and senior Austin Willoughby’s 11 points. Junior guard Jazz Banwait dished out a game-high six assists.
“Our three seniors (Willoughby, Roy, and DJ Helm) get a lot of the attention and it shows, but I’ve got three sophomores who are not playing like first-year varsity players,” Gangany praised of sophs Stubbe, Ethan Edwards, and Maalik Perkins.
The host Hornets shot a frigid 24-of-58 (41.4 percent), hitting only seven of 28 (25 percent) of 3-point shots. Jeremiah Alexander scored a team-high 15 points for the Hornets.
The Hornets led twice by six points in the first half. In the fourth quarter, Whiteland gained control on McLaughlin’s 3-pointer (53-46) with two minutes left. Whiteland iced it with six of six free throws in the final 38.5 seconds. Oddly, the Hornets never made it to the charity stripe.
At Franklin Central, the host Flashes dominated Perry Meridian, 49-35 on teacher appreciation night. The Flashes (3-18) have closed with two consecutive wins.
“We have competed, but up until a few weeks ago we had played the toughest schedule in the state,” FC coach Criss Beyers said. “We also went through a long stretch shooting only 18 to 19 percent from the 3 and 27 percent for all our shots.
“We’ve talked all along about our main goal, and that’s to play our best basketball at sectional time, and I believe we are,” Beyers concluded.
In a quirk of the blind draw pairings, the Flashes and Falcons meet tonight (Wednesday) in the 4A Perry Meridian Sectional.
The Flashes outscored the visiting Falcons 16-2 in the third quarter. FC enjoyed the three-way punch of Elijah Crockett (18 points), Joshua Moriarity (13 points), and Valen Mosley (nine points). Senior Patrick Schott led the Falcons with 13 points.
Elsewhere, momentum shows on the side of Center Grove (20-2) after winning 11 of its last 12 games; Greenwood Christian (17-6) with 11 straight wins; Lutheran (14-7) with five wins in a row; Christel House Manual (12-9) with two in a row; and Roncalli upended Brebeuf Jesuit, 51-49.
Southport (14-9), Decatur Central (11-10), and Greenwood (8-14) dropped their final regular season games.