DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Whiteland was the definition of streaky in its boys basketball season opener Tuesday night.
The Warriors shook off a cold start to build a first-half lead, went cold in the second half and then charged back to nearly erase a double-digit deficit late.
But that final hot stretch was not enough as the Warriors fell to host Mount Vernon, 56-51.
Whiteland (0-1) missed its first eight shots of the evening, and trailed by six early.
The Warriors quickly caught fire, though.
They hit their next eight shots, and soon were on a 21-7 run that put them up 29-20 with 2:50 remaining in the first half. They weathered some late foul trouble and took a 31-27 lead into
The first 13 minutes of the second half belonged to the Marauders. They took away Whiteland’s transition opportunities and methodically climbed back into the game. They took the lead twice during the third quarter and a Miles Wayer bucket with 35 seconds remaining put them up 40-38, a lead they would never relinquish.
Mount Vernon (1-0) held Whiteland scoreless for nearly four minutes in the fourth quarter while stretching the lead to 12
Whiteland had one more
Junior Will Higdon hit three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt with 2:52 to play. Thirty seconds later he scored on a run to the rim after a defensive rebound by Tom Purdie.
The Warriors defense set up Purdie on the next two possessions. He scored on a layup off of a Hidgon steal and then drained a 3-pointer from the left elbow after Terr’e Moss forced a held-ball call to cut the lead to 53-51 with 1:15 left.
Whiteland forced turnovers on the next two Mount Vernon possessions. However, each time the Warriors could not convert the chance to tie or retake the lead.
Marauders’ sophomore Michael Ertel put the game away with three free throws in the final 19 seconds.
Although disappointed by the loss, Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth praised the Warriors’ effort.
“They’re a really good team, and I love the way we competed and battled,” Wadsworth said. “I thought early in the first half what worked for us offensively was transition.
“We got some easy buckets that way but didn’t find them in the second half.”
Wadsworth said the early and late comebacks showed the character of this year’s roster.
“As a coach, I never felt out of the game and I don’t believe our players did either,” he said. “This team has a lot of grit and passion and desire to win, and I think that showed.”
Purdie, a junior, led the Warriors with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Higdon had 16 points.
Whiteland hit 19 of 47 shots from the field (40.4 percent) and all seven free-throw attempts. The Warriors were hurt by turnovers, though. They gave up the ball 13 times, nine coming in the second half.
Ertel had 17 points to lead Mount Vernon. Joining him in double figures were Wayer and James McCloud with 12 each and Erick Shepherd with 11 points and seven rebounds. The Marauders also hit 19 field goals, theirs on 52 attempts (36.5 percent) and 13 of 18 free throws. They turned the ball over just nine times and won the rebounding battle 33-29.
The Warriors host Greenfield-Central Saturday night.