Whiteoak's Traeten Hamilton (3) takes a shot at the basket while under pressure from Peebles on Wednesday. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Whiteoak's Traeten Hamilton (3) takes a shot at the basket while under pressure from Peebles on Wednesday. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)

MCDERMOTT — Whiteoak’s first step in the rebuild of their program saw them gain 13 wins this season, but unfortunately for the Wildcats on Wednesday night, their season came to a close at the hands of conference counterpart Peebles.

The two Southern Hills Athletic Conference teams played close for the first frame, where it was a three-point differential at the conclusion of the first eight minutes played at Northwest High School. From the second frame on, however, the Indians took control of the pace of the game, took advantage of some miscues by the Wildcats and went on to defeat Whiteoak by a 68-50 score in the Division IV SE District Sectional Finals.

Whiteoak ends the season at 13-10 overall in their first season with Blake Kibler as their head coach, a nine-game improvement over last season. The Wildcats also won their first tournament game since 2012 when they won in the sectional semifinals last Wednesday over Sciotoville East.

These two teams had already faced each other twice earlier this season in SHAC play, with Peebles winning both games by scores of 65-50 and 42-38.

“This season has been a blast. These kids have something to be proud of. After seasons of 2-18, 3-17 and 4-16, these kids still stuck in there and gave it all they had this year,” Whiteoak head coach Blake Kibler said. “It was a devastating loss to Peebles in the sectional final, and at the beginning of the year our goal we set was to get to the Convo and we came up short. Winners win, but they also fail at times.

“We are hoping the underclassman piggyback on what the seniors and the upperclassmen have laid out for them for next year and learn from the loss. We have a big summer ahead of us, and these kids are going to be ready and hungry to get back where we need to be.”

The opening frame for the Wildcats saw them battle strong against the Division II SHAC champion Indians (18-5), where they trailed by just three points and at one point late in the opening frame nearly took the lead against their conference counterpart.

Though the Indians were first to score points — taking a 4-0 lead early on — the Wildcats scored their opening points of the game with a free throw by Michael Crowe at the 6:02 mark, but Peebles answered with a jumper for a 6-1 lead, forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout with just under 5:00 on the clock.

From there, Zach Rand added points to the Whiteoak side of the scoreboard with a layup while being fouled, but again, the Indians were there to double their lead at 8-4. Rand finished the game with 12 points.

With the clock continuing in the first frame, Whiteoak’s Traeten Hamilton sank a 3-pointer from the corner to get the Wildcats to within a point of tying the game with 3:28 still left in the first frame. Peebles answered with a jumper from Bostin Robinson, but the Wildcats were right there with a layup by Hamilton after taking the ball full court with 3:06 left in the quarter. Hamilton led the Wildcats with 14 points.

Robertson led all scorers with 21 points, followed by teammates Tanner Arey with 17 points and Weston Browning with 16 points.

The first frame ended with a layup by Robinson, answered with a layup by Whiteoak’s Stephen Ross, but PHS was there again with two points by Browning to end the first-frame scoring at 14-11 in favor of Peebles.

Whiteoak’s second frame wasn’t as productive as they’d wished with the Indians outscoring them 19-9 in the quarter, though WHS scored the first four points of the frame, all by Rand.

Later, Whiteoak hit a jumper from Ross with 4:59 on the clock, as Ross totaled five points in the loss. Eventually, the Indians went on a tear by taking a 30-17 lead by scoring 14 straight points. WHS came back with the final three points of the second for a 33-20 halftime deficit.

The third didn’t start out strong for the Wildcats with Peebles scoring the first four points of the quarter, but the Wildcats scored their first points to cut the PHS lead to 39-25. Again, the Indians had the answer with more points in the paint, leading to a 50-34 advantage after three complete quarters, with Peebles outscoring the Wildcats, 17-14 in the frame.

WHS had points from Trever Yeager, Charley Skinner, Hamilton and Rand, as they combined for the scoring in the third. Yeager finished the game with seven points.

In the fourth, Whiteoak was not able to catch the Indians, who kept a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game, as they outscored the Wildcats 18-16 in the final eight minutes. Scoring points for WHS in the fourth were Yeager, Chase Butler, Hamilton, Ross, Atlee Carr and Josh Hughes.

Final scoring for WHS included Chase Butler (2), Charley Skinner (4), Crowe (1), Carr (2) and Hughes (3).

Whiteoak says goodbye to four seniors this season, as they are Trever Yeager, Michael Crowe, Stephen Ross and Charley Skinner.

“For the seniors, they are going to be missed,” Kibler said. “Crowe’s defense, Trever’s presence and offensive ability, Skinner’s heart and Ross’s leadership will truly be missed. Our guys coming back will have some big shoes to fill, but we have the pieces coming back next year and some kids coming into the program that are going to keep us very competitive for next year. It has been a great season and it only goes up from here.”