Kyle Dugger and Whitewater forged a big second half rally to beat McIntosh 61-59.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
There's no quit in the Whitewater Wildcats. The Cats dug out of an 18 point deficit to topple the McIntosh Chiefs on their own home court, 61-59, on Friday night.
"I'm speechless," said a visibly emotional coach Mark Fisher. "Eighteen down against one of the better teams in the state. All we did is we said when we leave we want the other team to respect us. Don't quit. Chip away. Just unbelievable."
For most of the night, it looked like the Chiefs’ game to lose. Will Washington and Jordan Lyons were their usual selves, slicing to the hoop with regularity. Alex Cervantes was an absolute marksman from the outside. Sophomore big man Dishon Lowery wreaked havoc in the paint. He more than held his own against the heralded big man for the Cats. Still, Whitewater didn't get down.
"It was an all-around effort. It was senior led," Fisher beamed.
The Cats trimmed the deficit down to ten points to wrap up the third quarter. Phil Cofer showed the flexibility of his game as his jumper kept the Chiefs on their toes when he wasn't cutting to the rim. David Bowler's bucket in the paint cut it to 51-41 heading into the final frame.
Fisher was quick to heap praise on an unsung hero in the comeback, Victor Ayuk. Ayuk was brought into the game as a defensive stopper and he did a great job. "We put a sophomore in off the bench. We gambled," Fisher said. "We played Victor man on man against Will (Washington). He changed the game."
Whitewater kept chipping away at the deficit. The momentum was sliding in their favor. It toppled all the way on their side with a boom thanks to the Cats' electric big man. Off a missed jumper, Cofer grabbed a rebound at the apex of his jump and threw down a monster one handed slam in one smooth motion. The sheer athleticism was so breathtaking, even the McIntosh students stood with jaws dropped in amazement.
Cofer's thunder dunk cut McIntosh's lead to four four points with four minutes to play. From there, the Cats grabbed the game. A pair of buckets by Phil Garner gave his team the lead at 61-59, their first since early in the second quarter. That would be all they needed. Jordan Lyons got a good look at a jumper to tie the game, but when it missed, Kyle Dugger pulled in a huge rebound to ice the game for Whitewater.
Cofer led all scorers with 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Justin Simpson-James added 13 for the Wildcats. Phil Garner and Heath Alred scored 10 and eight points respectively.
Alex Cervantes led McIntosh with 18 points, including five threes. Jordan Lyons scored 14 with Dishon Lowery chipping in 12.
The Lady Chiefs got sweet revenge in the opener thanks to a huge night by Cassidy Williams as they topped Whitewater 54-44.
When the teams met earlier this month, Whitewater shut down McIntosh in the second half, and especially the fourth quarter where they allowed just one point, en route to a 35-34 win. Was there still a bad taste in their mouths from that game?
"Absolutely. Definitely," said McIntosh coach Alex Mull. "We let that one slip away from us, but Whitewater played a tough game."
Cassidy Williams did everything in her power to avenge that loss. Her 34 point explosion matched the team's output in the earlier loss.
"Cassidy is a special player. She's a coach's dream," said Mull. "She's a difference maker on the floor and the girls look to her."
She did it with the help of a great team effort. The Chiefs played fierce defense against a very good Whitewater squad.
"Whitewater outrebounded us, but we made up for it on the defensive side of the floor," Mull said. "We played hard. We wanted it."
The game was a fierce battle most of the night before McIntosh could pull away. A five point Chief lead at the half was whittled down to just one, at 32-31, after three quarters. As good as Cassidy Williams was, Jada Coggins wasn't far behind. Her 23 points helped Whitewater keep pace as she sliced her way to the hoop and hit shoots from the inside and out.
McIntosh got big treys from Savannah Soles and Christine Cerezola to start the fourth quarter as they stretched their lead. Coggins and Kaelyn Dugger would try to get the Cats back into the game, but they wouldn't get closer than five points in the final frame.