Max Sullivan figured he started off with the right rhythm.
“After I scored the first five of the game, I knew I was going to be on tonight,” Sullivan said. “I just had to keep rolling after that.”
The 6-foot-6 senior forward scored 19 points to lead visiting Whiteland to a 51-39 victory over Franklin in Mid-State Conference boys basketball action on Friday night.
Sullivan scored 10 of his points in the third quarter to help the Warriors to a 37-32 lead. The Warriors (11-6, 3-1 Mid-State) pulled away in the fourth quarter, when senior guard Kyson Jones scored eight of his 11 points.
“Kyson was big for us in the fourth quarter,” said Warriors coach Nate Cangany, whose team won its fourth consecutive game. “Max was great all night. Austin Willoughby’s defense was good all night. Brayden Roy and Jazz Banwait stepped it off the bench and gave us something.”
Cangany said those bench contributions were huge since key reserve Wiatt McLaughlin suffered an ankle injury after being in the game for only a couple minutes.
“He’s like another starter,” Cangany said of McLaughlin. “When you don’t have someone that important for you for most of the game and have other guys step up, it was huge for us.”
Whiteland led 13-10 after the first quarter and 20-17 at halftime.
“We felt the biggest problem in the first half was our turnovers,” Cangany said. “We had some easy opportunities at the rim. Man, I don’t know if the rims were extra tight, some of those rattled out. We told our guys, ‘We are getting great shots, that’s all we can do. Keep getting stops and don’t turn the ball over and we’ll be OK.’”
Cangany said the Warriors’ veteran leadership and experience was crucial.
“We closed the game like a good team should,” Cangany said. “Our experience paid off in the fourth quarter.”
Carson Hunter was high for Franklin (4-9, 1-3) with 15 points. Grizzly Cubs coach Adrian Moss said the Warriors definitely had the edge in experience.
Moss said the game has been the story of the season.
“I consider Whiteland a very good team,” Moss said. “We’ve played other tough teams and we’ve hung right there with them. We’ve shown we can be a good team at times. When it gets to the 5-minute mark, We’re not executing and we’re making too many mistakes. We were getting empty possessions and turnovers. We were getting some really good looks and we’re just not knocking them down in clutch situations and the other team is.”
Moss said he can’t be mad about missed shots.
“Some shots weren’t great shots,” Moss said. “I feel like we we are right there. I know it’s cliché, but we’re going to keep working and try to figure it out. We just haven’t taken that next step maturity wise. Whiteland is a very mature team. They were patient. They got down low and could take advantage of their size. They play together. They sacrifice themselves for the team, and that’s why they win.”
Franklin plays at New Palestine tonight. Whiteland is off until a crucial conference game with league-leading Mooresville next Friday night.