NAPPANEE – Could they be a team of destiny?
The Whitko girls basketball team continued its stellar season on Friday night when it took on Lakeland in a semifinal game of the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 21 at NorthWood High School. The Lady Wildcats were favored in the game and never gave doubt as to why, beating the Lakers 60-45.
Whitko started hot, opening the game on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes. The Lady Wildcats took the momentum from the tip-off and really never gave it back. Whitko led 17-6 after the first quarter and 28-18 at the half.
Lakeland failed to compete with Whitko’s all-around talent and consistency. Whitko gave the Lakers a few opportunities to get back in the game, but Lakeland did not have the tools or patience to successfully chip away at Whitko’s lead. Another advantage that the Lady Wildcats held over Lakeland was the three Reiff girls.
Aly, Jennifer and Kelly Reiff combined to score 33 of Whitko’s 60 points. Aly led the team with 15 points and added eight rebounds. Jennifer tallied 12 points and nine rebounds while Kelly supplied six points. The Reiff girls were a force on Friday but those three in addition to the play from Jordan Hall proved to be a force that the Lakers could not match. Hall, a senior, kept her final season alive with a double-double. Hall pulled down 10 rebounds and scored 14 points for the Lady Wildcats.
For a team that seemed to be blinded by the bright lights of the sectional stage on Tuesday night, Whitko certainly appeared more comfortable today. Maybe a little too comfortable at time for coach Brandon Bradley.
“There were absolutely no nerves for our girls today,” said Bradley. “In fact, I think we became too comfortable at times. That led to us getting relaxed and playing sloppy at times and having a lot of bad, sloppy turnovers. We can’t play like that against whoever we get on Saturday.”
Whitko had its moments of sloppy play, but the team looked much more in-tune on Friday compared to its Tuesday performance. The one thing Bradley felt the team lacked more than anything was a continued aggressiveness.
“My challenge to the team for tomorrow’s game was to come out aggressive,” Bradley stated. “We should be able to come out like we did in the Wabash game. We came out hard, tough and aggressive. We needed to use today’s game to get ready for tomorrow and we have to come out energized in tomorrow’s game against either Tippecanoe Valley or NorthWood.
“NorthWood is, in my opinion, one of the top three team’s in the North in 3A. Valley already showed us what they can do earlier in the year when they beat us. We have to be ready and play better than we did at times today.”
Bradley was right. His team’s play was good enough to beat Lakeland on Friday, but it was not up to par with the level Valley and NorthWood are typically on. But shortly after Whitko’s game ended, it was clear to see who the ‘Cats would see in Saturday’s championship.
NorthWood showed its strength in an 84-61 victory over Valley in the second game of Friday’s semifinal round. Whitko (16-6) and NorthWood (18-5) will meet tomorrow in the sectional title game at 7:30 p.m. at NorthWood High School.
This will be the first time Whitko has been in a sectional title tilt since 2010 when the Lady Wildcats lost to NorthWood 76-35 in the West Noble sectional.
“What I left the girls with for Saturday was simple,” Bradley said. “We’re in a sectional championship game. It has happened for Whitko, it hasn’t happened often. Enjoy tomorrow, take it all in and then come out and attack whoever we play.”