Tuesday night’s final scores were not what Whitewater was aiming for against LaGrange, but it was a sign of good things to come for the Wildcats.The young Lady Wildcat squad battled the state playoff Grangers in a 44-40 defeat, while the boys pushed the ninth-ranked team in AAAAA to the brink in a 55-51 loss.
Even facing down such a tough test, the Lady Wildcats and their lineup that features four freshmen Courtney Smith, Janiya Jones, Morgan Johnson, and Jada Claude did not shy away.
“I’m disappointed we lost, but very pleased with what’s going on with us,” said Lady Wildcats coach Rashad Muhyee, also praising the leadership of senior point guard Jordan Barnett. “We’re growing up. I expected this because we’re playing four freshmen. They’re talented, but they have to learn what they can and cannot do. This is good for us.”
A late surge, featuring a three from Jordan Barnett and four straight points from Courtney Smith, pulled Whitewater within 25-24 at halftime.
The third quarter was a defensive struggle for both sides. Olivia Baker’s jumper were Whitewater’s final points, sending them into the fourth down 33-28.
Any chance the Grangers had to pull away, the Wildcats kept reeling them back in. Baker sank another shot, along with Barnett. Janiya Jones came through with a layup and a three-point play, then dished to Smith for two to cut the deficit to three points with under two minutes to play.
Jones and Morgan Johnson both forced turnovers down the stretch, but the Cats could not get the baskets they needed, falling 44-40.
“You can’t practice situations like that,” said Muhyee, calling it a prime learning experience. “They didn’t quit, and they didn’t cry. I was impressed.”
Courtney Smith led the attack with 18 points. Janiya Jones added 9 points and 10 rebounds.
The Whitewater boys hung in with every blow LaGrange had, they just ran out of time.
The Wildcats shook off an early deficit, as Garrett Owen hit a turnaround jumper and Josh Anthony buried a three-pointer to pull within 14-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Zach Yeager came alive in the second quarter, baffling the Granger defense with a spin move in the post on a handful of baskets. Jordan Wright hit from long range to stay within 29-24 at halftime.
Owen hit from deep, and Yeager added a tip-in as Whitewater trailed 44-34 after three.
LaGrange built up a ten-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats responded. Anthony, Wright, and Yeager scored to cut into the gap. Josh Graham sank a three, and Owen hit a pair of free throws to make it a 50-47 game with under a minute to play. Owen and Graham each scored on putbacks to made it a two-point margin with eight seconds left, but LaGrange finished it off for a 55-51 win.
Josh Graham led the Cats with 13 points. Zach Yeager posted 12 points and 10 rebounds, Garrett Owen added 10 points, and Jordan Wright pulled down 11 rebounds.
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