COLUMBIA CITY – It will only go up from here.
The Whitko boys basketball team tipped its 2014-15 season Wednesday night and things did not necessarily go as planned. The Wildcats struggled with the press and overall size that Columbia City brought to the table. The Eagles would breeze to a 73-16 victory.
Columbia City got things going early. The Eagles were able to hit from seemingly every spot on the court. Whitko could not find that offensive rhythm despite having a few open shots early.
The Wildcats have only played together for two weeks. Many of the players on this years team did not play last season and head coach Roger Fleetwood is still trying to get the players to mesh with his system. Whitko was clearly in a transition phase entering this game and it showed.
“This isn’t really where you want to play a team like Columbia City,” Fleetwood said. “They have played as a team longer and are just a more talented team than we are right now. We bookend our season with two of the toughest teams on our schedule with starting out here at Columbia City and then playing NorthWood the last game of the season.”
Though Fleetwood’s team trailed 14-0 after the first quarter, the improvements throughout the game were noticeable. The biggest issue for Whitko was trying to beat the press that Columbia City brought from the opening minute of the game.
“It’s just hard to look up at the scoreboard and see that you have a goose egg,” said Fleetwood. “We had some wide open shots, we just didn’t make them. If we hit those shots then it should be 14-9. I’m not saying it changes the outcome, I’m just saying that it helps us mentally going into the second quarter. It keeps us in the game.
“We really didn’t play the bad in the first quarter, we just didn’t have any points. That turned the quarter into a let down. We haven’t a lot of time to work on our press offense and that showed here tonight. If they (Columbia City) don’t run a press, I think we stay in the game. We might not win, but we keep it closer.”
The good news for Fleetwood’s team is that over the course of the game players started to become more comfortable and positives were there to be seen. Freshman River West showed his ability to score and would end up with seven points for the Wildcats. Devon Adkins led the team with eight points. Tanner Gaff finished with one point and led the team with seven rebounds.
Columbia City was connecting from deep from start to finish, hitting a total of 12 threes. The Eagles controlled the boards, winning the battle 32-21 and had just nine turnovers compared to Whitko’s 22. Brachen Hazen and Mason Coverstone tied for the game-high in points with 14 a piece. Justin Bachelder had 13 for the Eagles.
Whitko (0-1) will travel to Bellmont next Saturday (12/6) and will also get back Nate Walpole. Walpole should be able to create more scoring for the Wildcats at the point and dish the ball out to West at the two guard spot to also generate more points.
Columbia City will head down highway 30 to take on Warsaw this Saturday. Head coach Chris Benedict is looking forward to that opportunity.
“Warsaw is a good team. Doug (Ogle) always has those guys ready to go,” said Benedict. “Warsaw is a team that is not going to beat itself, so you to do things to get the ball where you want it to go. Everything will just have to be heightened for us on Saturday.”
Columbia City won the junior varsity contest 64-29. Shad Ebbinghouse led the Wildcat JV with five points.