The evaluation process began the instant the basketball left Monica Collins’ fingertips.
As the Whiteland senior guard released her desperation 35-foot jumper from directly in front of her team’s bench, what looked good in mid-flight wound up hitting all net.
Collins’ buzzer-beater gave Whiteland a thrilling and highly emotional 56-54 victory against Beech Grove at Glenn Ray Gymnasium, touching off a mid-court celebration.
“It did feel good when I let it go, but I wasn’t sure,” said the scrappy 5-foot-5 Collins, whose 13 points and seven rebounds played a huge role in the Warriors snapping a three-game losing skid.
“I knew the play because we had run it before in practice,” Collins said. “Everything just fell our way.”
Whiteland had fallen behind 54-53 when Hornets freshman swingman Katie Giller buried a triple of her own with 2.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Warriors players immediately signaled timeout, but the scoreboard showed 0.8 seconds.
Game officials eventually put the clock back to 1.9 seconds, with Whiteland forced to go the entire length of the floor following a timeout.
Junior guard Sydney Mize inbounded to 6-1 freshman post Mackenzie Blazek, who immediately flipped the ball to Collins, who stopped, popped and immediately shifted into a hero’s role.
“We probably work on that play at least twice a week,” Warriors coach Kyle Shipp said. “Mackenzie was prepared to catch the ball and Monica was streaking down the side. We talk about doing all the little things right, and we really felt like we deserved to win this game.”
The aforementioned Blazek proved virtually unstoppable down low with 20 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. By game’s end Whiteland owned a decisive 40-22 upper hand on the glass.
Beech Grove countered with two outstanding freshmen of its own.
Cameron Cardenas, a 5-8 guard, led all scorers with 25 to go along with four boards. Giller’s 13 points included three 3-point buckets.
The win extended Whiteland’s streak in the series to six, though the programs hadn’t met since 2007 prior to Thursday’s game.
Beech Grove’s most recent victory in the series was a 78-44 decision in December 2002. That Hornets team, led by 2003 Indiana Miss Basketball Katie Gearlds, posted a 28-1 record on its way to a Class 3A state championship.
“I was really proud of how we played in the middle of the second quarter with a run and actually extending the lead in the third quarter,” Shipp said.
“We got contributions from everybody. Tori Ison off the bench in the first half was huge. Sammi Fancher off the bench was huge. Kaylee McCracken hitting a big basket in the second half. And, of course, Mackenzie Blazek played great.”
Neither team shot the basketball well, with the Hornets making 21 of 52 (.404) compared to 21 of 59 (.356) for the Warriors.
But it was that 21st hoop making all the difference.
Whiteland (7-10) returns to action Saturday with a game at New Palestine. Tip-off is at 1:30 p.m.