David Bowler came up huge in the post for the Wildcats in their win against Starr’s Mill.
(Staff Photo by Christ
It's been an inspirational run for the Whitewater Wildcats. They got their next big victory on Friday night, claiming the region championship with a 50-32 win over Starr's Mill.
There was plenty of motivation on the table for the Wildcats. They had never won the region title. Starr's Mill had beaten them twice this season. They were playing in a tourney named for their beloved Coach Chalk. Whatever it was they needed, they found it. A tight contest in the first half turned into a romp as the Wildcats ran to victory.
"Seeing these guys continue to grind as a unit has been a lot of fun to watch. They've figured it out," said Whitewater head coach Jason Barnes. "They've grown on the basketball floor for all the world to see, but what's behind closed doors is how tough they've become mentally. They've grown more than any teenager should have to grow."
The first two meetings this year between Whitewater and Starr's Mill were decided by four total points. After the first half, it looked like this matchup was headed for another thrilling finish.
Starr's Mill started out ahead ahead before the Wildcats charged back with a flourish. Phil Cofer nearly brought the roof down with a thunderous dunk over the top of a Panther. A Darius Sharpe three helped stake the Cats to a 11-10 lead at the end of the frame.
Will Anda gave the Panthers a lead early in the second, first on a drive to the hoop and then on a full court pass from Ryan Avidano. Jeremiah Vrudy followed with a pair of his own scores, including a sweet finger roll, as the Panthers pulled ahead by eight. The Wildcats would grab back some key momentum when, at the buzzer, Kyle Dugger drained a jumper in the corner to cut the deficit to 24-22.
"We got a big bucket at the half from Dugger. We felt like that gave us a little momentum," Barnes said. "We challenged the guys to focus on what we can control. We can control our effort and intensity on defense. We wanted to really, really make Starr's Mill uncomfortable."
It must have worked. The Wildcat defense was nearly impenetrable in the second half. Starr's Mill would score only eight points in the second half and just two in the fourth quarter, those coming after most of the starters had left the game.
The Wildcats kept pushing and grinding until the game was well in hand. One minute the game was a thriller, the next second you looked up and Whitewater was leading by twenty points. It was a truly special performance.
Along the way, offensive contributions were poured in across the board, highlighted by 20 points by Darius Sharpe. David Bowler chipped in with a tremendous game on defense and on the boards.
Now, the Wildcats will try to continue their run in the state playoffs. They open up the tourney at home against Hardaway.