The Wildcats broke a bit of new ground on Tuesday night. For the first time in Whitewater High School history the Cats swept Fayette County High School, the boys winning 62-61 in overtime and the girls winning 37-33.
The Lady Wildcats were especially thrilled with their victory, their first ever over Fayette. They did it with defense, locking down the sharpshooting Tigers.
“It was a great team effort,” said Whitewater coach Rashad Muhyee. “It didn’t matter who we put in, and we played the entire bench at some point, they bought into the scheme we put in defensively.”
They set out to limit Fayette’s top wing players, Kayla Smith and Darryl Langford, and they were far more successful than most.
“The game plan was to force them to drive because they’re great shooters,” said Muhyee. “When they drove, they were going to get surrounded.”
Whitewater got the veteran leadership they needed from their seniors. Rena Jenkins and Jada Coggins played every minute of the physical game. Jenkins attacked the basket, opening up avenues for her teammates, while Coggins was clutch when they needed her most, sinking seven of her last eight free throws to ice the game.
“Rena was awesome. She played until she just gave out,” said Muhyee. “The whole thing is, Jada wants the ball at the end. Some shy away from it. Jada runs to it. And she is becoming one of the best leaders, on and off the court, that I’ve ever had.”
It wasn’t just Jenkins and Coggins coming through for the Cats. Others like Alexa Baumgartner stepped up.
“Alexa had two big buckets,” praised Muhyee. “She had a rebound layup and one where she drove to the hoop when we were behind. Those two were huge.”
The Lady Wildcats are riding a wave of momentum as winners of five of their last six games, but they know there’s work left to do.
“We’re not there yet, but if we can play defense like this night in and night out, we are a very tough team,” said Muhyee.
Both teams gritted it out for every basket in a defensive battle. Whitewater held the lead throughout the first half. An 8-6 margin after the first quarter was padded with a three point play from Coggins and grew as high as eight points. Kayla Smith sank a three, and Christa Jones went two for two from the line at the end of the half to pull Fayette within 16-15.
Fayette swiped the lead early in the second half with a Darryl Langford steal and layup. Whitewater regained the lead at 24-21 going into the final frame.
The Tigers started the fourth strong, keyed by a three-pointer from Latia Styles. Whitewater erased the deficit with the key drive by Baumgartner to get within 31-30. Coggins gave the Cats the lead back to stay with two free throws with 1:42 to play. Her seven of eight run in the waning moments would keep her team in front to stay. Christa Jones got the hoop for two to get the Tigers close at 34-33 with ten seconds left, but Coggins did the rest.
Jada Coggins led all scorers with 19 points, adding 11 rebounds, followed by Alexa Baumgartner with eight and Rena Jenkins with six.
Kayla Smith led Fayette with 13 points, followed by Christa Jones with 10.
As close as the girls game was, the late game upped the bar with an overtime finish. Whitewater shook off an eight-point fourth quarter deficit, then finished the job in extra time.
“I’m just proud of the guys. I felt like they came together as a team,” said coach Fred West. “The biggest part that contributed to the win is, late in the game, they locked down on defense and took care of the basketball.”
The first half was heavy on three-pointers, Garrett Watkins and Phil Garner hitting for Whitewater and Jaylon Cheffin and Omar Howard stepping up for Fayette. The Tigers built a slim 19-17 first quarter lead, then the scoring was bogged down by fierce defense en route to a 26-26 halftime tie.
Whitewater scored the first five points of the second half, finishing by a Watkins drive down the lane. After a Zach Yeager three, Fayette answered with a run of their own. A Shawn Foxbrennen bucket put the Tigers back in front at 35-34, and they would hold it until late in the game. Sam Jimenez and Isaac Kellum tallied big buckets and Kenny Lewis drained a three as they made it a 45-42 game heading into the fourth.
Kellum sank two treys to start the fourth, but Whitewater kept pace, aided by a Watkins bomb and a putback from Victor Ayuk. Garrett Owen tied the game up at 55-55 with two frees with 2:17 to play, then a baby hook from Ridge Perkins put the Cats ahead at 57-55.
Kenny Lewis tied it at 58l with a monster three, despite a hand in his face. Watkins and Lewis traded free throws to end regulation at 59-59.
Fayette got the first score of overtime on a dish from Kellum to Omar Howard with just 45 seconds left. Whitewater got all the points they needed when Phil Garner scored with contact and sank the following free throw with 32 seconds remaining.
Garrett Watkins led Whitewater in scoring with 16 points, followed by Phil Garner with 14 and Zach Yeager with 10. Victory Ayuk pulled down 11 rebounds.
Shawn Foxbrennen paced Fayette with 14 points and seven rebounds. Kenny Lewis also scored 14, with Isaac Kellum adding 12. Nick Egona grabbed eight rebounds.
Fayette County will get a shot at revenge when they host the Wildcats Friday, February 6.