The third-ever boys basketball meeting between Whiteland and Greenwood Christianl turned out closer than the first two.
Consider it small consolation for the visiting Cougars, who lost a 78-43 decision at Whiteland on Tuesday night in a first-round game of the annual Johnson County tournament.
The Warriors now turn their attention to Friday night’s 6 p.m. semifinal at Indian Creek against Mid-State Conference rival Greenwood.
Whiteland was led in scoring by senior guard Drew Higdon, who drilled four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points. Sophomore Wiatt McLaughlin came off the bench to lend 14-point support along with seven rebounds, while junior Austin Willoughby and senior post Max Sullivan scored 13 apiece.
Sullivan finished with seven boards and senior point guard Kyson Jones six as Whiteland dominated the glass, 31-19.
GCA’s lone lead was 3-0 after sophomore Max Booher, the game’s top scorer with 20 points, knocked down a triple 45 seconds in.
After that, it was all Warriors.
“Our mindset is we feel like we do have a good team, and coming into tonight, we’re 7-6, but when you look at our nonconference schedule, we played some really tough teams,” Whiteland coach Nate Cangany said. “We feel like we’re battle-tested, and as we go into the most important phase of our season with county this week and some big conference games coming up, we feel like we can’t take possessions off and can’t take moments off in games.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play your best at all times.”
The teams previously met during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, with the Warriors winning by scores of 85-34 and 71-34.
GCA entered Tuesday’s game having won four of its last five games, establishing momentum under first-year coach Jackson Williams. However, against Whiteland, the Cougars committed eight turnovers in the opening quarter and finished with 18.
“Whiteland is good at getting up in you, and they’re long and athletic,” Williams said. “We just didn’t handle the pressure the way we wanted to handle it tonight, so getting off to a start like that is always tough.”
Whiteland outscored the Cougars in the second period, 22-8, to build a 41-20 cushion at halftime.
Ten of McLaughlin’s points were scored prior to intermission, as were nine of Sullivan’s and seven of Willoughby’s. Such balance has been a staple of the season so far as Higdon, Willoughby, McLaughlin and Sullivan all average between 10 and 13 points per game.
“I don’t know many teams that have four guys averaging double figures,” Cangany said. “All four of those guys are within three points of each other. That’s one of our strengths. It can be anybody’s night, and our guys are unselfish and great teammates.
“Our balance is part of what makes us such a good team.”
Greenwood Christian labored from the field, making 16 of 42 field goal attempts (38.1%) compared to Whiteland’s 29 of 54 (53.7).