Whitewater boys, Starr's Mill girls pick up region wins

Fri, 01/18/2008 - 11:41pm
By: Kevin Wandra

If only the Whitewater Wildcats could play their crosstown rivals more often.

The Wildcats have had a rough season thus far as they currently find themselves at the bottom of the Region 2-AAAA standings. But one bright spot for them has been their play against crosstown rivals in the second half of the season.

Whitewater knocked off its second region rival from within the county for the second time in the second half of the season Friday, defeating the visiting Starr’s Mill Panthers 60-56 Friday night in Fayetteville.

The Wildcats' other victory against a local rival came last week, 58-55 over Fayette County.

In the early game, the Lady Panthers led from start to finish in a 33-20 victory over the Lady Wildcats.

Starr’s Mill led by as many as nine in the boys game (21-12 in the second quarter), but Whitewater responded with a much-improved second half, in which it continuously traded baskets with the Panthers.

The Panthers held a three-point lead twice in the fourth quarter, but Whitewater, down by one with 57 seconds left following a runner by Starr’s Mill's Justin Smith in the lane, received two game-altering plays from Jamal Washington and Kody Hastings to seal the come-from-behind victory.

Following a timeout called by Whitewater coach Brent Jackson when his team had the ball at its end of the court, Washington took the inbounds pass and drained a 3-pointer that put the Wildcats in front 58-56 with 30.3 seconds remaining.

“We did call the play for Jamal,” Jackson said. “I actually wanted him to penetrate to the basket. But he felt like he had an open shot. Well, that was a big-time shot right there.”

Then Hastings swiped the ball from Starr’s Mill near midcourt, drove to the basket and made a layup with 15 seconds left for the last points of the night.

Whitewater’s sizable student section stormed the court as the buzzer sounded to celebrate one of the highlights of the Wildcats’ dismal season.

Neither team generated much offense in the first half — Starr’s Mill led 21-16 at halftime — but the second half started with a bang and saw both teams continuously trade baskets. Whitewater and Starr’s Mill combined to score 42 points in the third quarter (22 for Whitewater, 20 for Starr’s Mill).

Starr’s Mill received quite a scare late in the third quarter when point guard Colin Elias landed hard on his shoulder after being slammed to the floor while driving to the basket. He left the game but returned to start the fourth quarter.

Whitewater repeated its high-scoring output in the fourth quarter, outscoring Starr’s Mill 22-15.

“When we came out in the second half, finally, we started hitting some shots,” Jackson said. “That kind of loosened us up. I felt like we were playing really tight in the first half. I told the guys at halftime, ‘Loosen up, just play and have fun, and your shots will go in.’”

The Panthers were aggressive with the basketball all night, taking the ball to the rim each time down the court. It’s aggressiveness paid off with numerous trips to the free throw line, where it went 17-of-31.

Whitewater was only 5-of-8 from the free throw line — the referees weren’t as generous to the Wildcats — but a combination of Washington, who scored a game-high 23 points, and Victor Lanier, who scored 12 points in his first start of the season, helped Whitewater get past the Panthers.

Hastings also gave Whitewater a tremendous lift off the bench, scoring nine points.

Smith scored 22 points, Mark Conard had 13 and Andrew Davis added eight to lead Starr’s MIll.

Baskets were hard to come by for both Whitewater and Starr’s Mill in the first quarter of the girls game as they combined to score only eight points.

Starr’s Mill displayed significant improvement in the second quarter, scoring 16 points to head into the locker room with a commanding 22-8 lead. Seven different players scored for Starr’s Mill in one of its most productive quarters of the season.

“We really took control of the game in the second quarter,” Starr’s Mill coach Whitt Jones said. “That’s where we won the game.”

The Lady Panthers coasted the rest of the way in a turnover-filled game for both teams.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Starr’s Mill’s victory was its defense; the Lady Panthers held Whitewater to eight points in the first half and 12 in the second half.

Starr’s Mill didn’t allow more than seven points in any of the four quarters.

Alexis Shaffer scored a game-high eight points and Holly Zeller had six for Starr’s Mill.

Katie McCreary scored six points to lead Whitewater.

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