ALBION — One down, two to go.
The Whitko girls basketball team took the first step in the hunt for its first-ever sectional championship Tuesday night in the opening game of the 2017 IHSAA Class 2-A Sectional 35 Tournament at Central Noble. The Wildcats whipped Fremont 74-35 behind a 27-point outing from Aly Reiff to move on to the semifinals.
Whitko jumped out to a 7-0 run to start the game and never really looked back. Despite a sloppy stretch that spread from the end of the first into the second, Whitko still managed to hang 38 points on the Eagles by the half and a total of 74 for the game.
“First of all, if you want to talk about shooting percentage, the rut we got in was late in that first quarter, early second, maybe most of the second quarter,” began Whitko head coach Brandon Bradley. “We took, I would say, 80-percent of our shots in that stretch were from 15 feet or longer. What I was frustrated with was that they (Fremont) had five team fouls, six, seven, and we’re still taking a lot of jumpers.
“That was something we talked about at halftime and in the timeout with about two minutes left in the half. From that stretch on, everything was aggressive to the rim. We forced a lot of turnovers, we played much more comfortably on defense. There were some nerves, but you’re going to get that in a first sectional game.”
The Wildcats led 25-17 before ending the half on a 13-0 run to lead 38-17 at the break. Reiff had nine points in that quarter, six of which came during that final stretch before the half. Fremont was held to just four points in the second period.
The Wildcats continued their dominance into the second half. Fremont countered with an little awakening on offense of its own. The Eagles scored 15 points in the third, but gained no ground at Whitko scored 21. The Eagles were then held to just three points in the final eight minutes.
Reiff led all scorers with her efforts but there was plenty of offensive support for the Wildcats Tuesday night as well.
Eight Whitko players scored in total with Hanna Yohe adding 15 points to the effort. Brielle Harrison (nine points), Kennedy Krull (seven), Haley Yohe (seven), Brianna Cumberland (four), Ellie Snep (three) and Emalee Duggins (two) rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats.
Fremont (8-15) was led by Lexi Lyon’s 13 points.
Whitko (20-4) set a new school record for wins in a single season with the win, but the Wildcats are not focused on school records or even winning a championship quite yet. Whitko knows what its capable of, but is taking things one game at a time, that turns the focus to Friday’s semifinal with LaVille (10-12).
“Last year they (LaVille) played Westview in a triangle-and-two and gave them fits for about three quarters,” Bradley said of his team’s next opponent. “I want to say it was only a one possession, two possession game going into the fourth. We just have to be ready for that mentally and we have to make sure we guard at the other end, too. They’ve got a couple of really nice players that you have to be aware of and they’re going to be very well coached. We just have to be ready to play.”
The Lancers bring a balanced scoring attack led by Aryn Eash’s 9.7 points per game average, but LaVille only averages around 41 points on offense, which could prove to be a problem as the Wildcats average over 57 points per contest as a team. Lindsey Aschenbrenner (8.2 ppg), Mallory Vernon (8.0 ppg)) and Jessica Tuttle (7.7 ppg) round out the scoring leaders for the Lancers.
Whitko and LaVille will tip at 6 p.m. Friday night with the second semifinal to follow. The second game will feature the winners of Wednesday’s games featuring Prairie Heights taking on Central Noble at 6 p.m. followed by Westview against Bremen.