When Starr’s Mill senior guard Kyle Evert drove down the lane for a layup to give his team an 11-point cushion with four minutes to play, it seemed a forgone conclusion the Panthers would beat the Whitewater Wildcats. With 5.5 seconds remaining, however, Starr’s Mill’s lead had been reduced to one.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” said Starr’s Mill head coach Brandon Hutchins. “Eleven-point lead. Three minutes to go. It shouldn’t have been that close. We’ve got to learn how to win games.”
A buzzer-beater attempt from Whitewater senior guard Joshua Anthony rattled out to seal Starr’s Mill’s 50-47 win over Whitewater (8-12, 3-5) Saturday at Starr’s Mill. Whitewater junior guard Joshua Lanier had drained a corner 3-pointer with five seconds on the clock, but Starr’s Mill junior forward Drew Hudson sank both of his free throws on the other end to preserve a three-point victory.
Despite losing a double-digit lead in the waning minutes of the game, Starr’s Mill (12-7, 4-4) led for all but less than a minute of game time.
While the game ended with both teams trading baskets, it began with a slow start offensively for both squads. Starr’s Mill led only 6-2 at the end of the first quarter, with just three made field goals between both teams through the first eight minutes of play.
The Panthers held onto their lead for a majority of the second quarter, but the Wildcats took their first lead when Lanier hit his first 3-pointer from the top of the arc. The made triple gave Whitewater a 13-12 advantage with under a minute remaining in the first half.
Starr’s Mill answered back before halftime, when junior guard Zach Pina drove into traffic and kicked it out to Hudson for a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half. Hudson finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds, and Pina posted 13 points and dished out 4 assists.
That was the only time Whitewater led all game, although the Wildcats never let the game get out of reach.
The pace picked up in the second half, as both teams outscored their first half scoring in the third quarter alone. Starr’s Mill began to pull away near the end of the third, with junior forward Chase Sands hitting a layup to put his team in front 35-27. Whitewater junior forward Matthew Forsyth scored a field goal at the end of the quarter to reduce the Starr’s Mill lead to six heading into the final quarter.
Panthers sophomore forward Nate Allison, who fell just shy of a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds, came out strong to begin the fourth quarter. He muscled in for a layup and then converted a three-point play to push Starr’s Mill ahead 40-33. The lead continued to grow, and with 4:04 on the clock, Whitewater trailed 46-35.
The Wildcats came back quickly, embarking on a 9-0 run that was capped off by a 3-pointer from sophomore point guard K’won Bush and a layup from Anthony. Hudson responded with a layup to give the Panthers some breathing room with a 48-44 lead, but Lanier’s 3-pointer gave Whitewater a chance.
Ultimately, Starr’s Mill held on for a win that didn’t come as easy as Hutchins would have liked, but he recognized his team was up against quality competition.
“They’re a very well coached team,” Hutchins said of Whitewater. “They do a good job at what they do, so we knew we were going to be in for a battle, and I was proud of how our guys fought.”
Starr’s Mill 49, Whitewater 20 (girls)
Basketball is a team game, but Starr’s Mill freshman guard Alice Anne Hudson managed to outscore all of her opponents by herself on Saturday. Hudson scored 24 points, four more than Whitewater.
Starr’s Mill (10-9, 3-5) shut out Whitewater (11-9, 2-6) 21-0 in the first quarter en route to a 49-20 win Saturday at Starr’s Mill. The deficit in the first quarter was too much for Whitewater to overcome, and Starr’s Mill stayed in control for the remainder of the game, erasing the bad taste of a 23-point output at McIntosh the day prior.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean yesterday, so I told them to come out here and have fun,” said Starr’s Mill head coach Shane Ratliff. “Put pressure on the ball, if we hit a couple layups early I think things will go well, and that’s what happened.”
Senior forward Kelly Kozusko paced the Panthers in the first quarter with 8 points, while Hudson converted all four of her free throws in the opening period. Hudson went 9-of-10 from the line in the game.
“She’s going to be a player for us,” Ratliff said of Hudson. “She’s been improving every year. She’s pretty special, so hopefully she’ll keep getting better.”
Hudson added three 3-pointers, one of which came in the second quarter. Starr’s Mill freshman guard Ashtyn Lally also added a triple in the first half, and the score at halftime was 33-6.
Hudson opened the second half with her other two 3-pointers to extend the lead to 39-6. At the end of the third quarter, Starr’s Mill led 44-9.
Whitewater found some openings in the fourth quarter, as sophomore forward Jada Claude added 6 fourth quarter points. Claude finished with a 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Ratliff said there wasn’t much to complain about after a convincing win for his team.
“Region-wise, we’re right in the thick of things,” Ratliff said.
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