Whiteland finally gets better of Franklin

None of Whiteland’s boys basketball players had ever experienced a varsity win over Franklin. To get one, the Warriors had to lean on a couple of unlikely heroes.

Logan Willoughby scored 15 points off the bench, including eight during a pivotal spurt at the end of the third quarter, and fellow reserve Isaiah Davis also provided a late spark to help host Whiteland to a 63-59 triumph over the Grizzly Cubs on Friday night.

Whiteland (7-6, 1-3 Mid-State Conference) had lost the last five meetings between the two teams, including a 59-54 defeat in a county semifinal last weekend.

"I think our guys just decided they were tired of losing to Franklin," Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

"The win tonight started in practice, where the seniors set the tone for the weekend."

Willoughby hit a pair of free throws at the 2:07 mark of the third period, then added buckets on three consecutive trips down the floor before the buzzer to stretch the Warriors’ lead to 50-41 going into the final quarter.

"I looked for my shot more," Willoughby said. "Just cut and get open layups, and my teammates were good at driving and just hitting me."

The Grizzly Cubs (9-6, 2-2) battled back to within one after a pair of Blaine Wentzell 3-pointers and tied the game on a Drew Byerly putback with 1:13 to go. But Carter Crowe hit a pair of free throws with 42.1 seconds left, and Brennan Neal came up with a steal at the other end, leading to a Willoughby layup that iced it.

Davis, who finished with nine points overall, had four points, three rebounds and two assists in the fourth quarter.

"Isaiah just changes the pace for us," Wadsworth said. "When he came off the bench, that was a change of pace that helped us attack."

Max Sullivan’s three-point play in the opening minute sparked an 8-0 run that got the Warriors out in front early. Another 9-2 burst, fueled by five points and an assist from Neal, stretched the Whiteland lead to 26-15 with five and a half minutes left in the half.

The Grizzly Cubs then outscored the Warriors 10-2 over the final 3:29 of the second quarter, closing with a Reece Thomson three-point play and a buzzer-beating 3 from Wentzell to chip the deficit to 33-30 at the break.

Franklin kept the momentum going into the third quarter, pulling ahead 37-35 on a pair of Cory Richards free throws. But the Warriors regained control with Willoughby’s flurry and held on down the stretch.

The loss effectively killed Franklin’s chances at a fourth consecutive conference title. Richards led the Grizzly Cubs with 21 points, with Thomson adding 16.

"We’ve got to take the rest of the season and grow — and get better at defending, because that’s our main weakness right now," Thomson said.