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Wildcats' defense stops Lions

Lead Summary

     LEESBURG – The Whiteoak Wildcats showcased their ability to control all facets of a game Saturday night as they didn’t trail for four quarters in a convincing 61-39 Southern Hills League victory over Highland County rival Fairfield at Grandle Gymnasium.

     The game was a makeup game from Friday as the original date was postponed due to inclement weather. The delay for one day didn’t affect the Wildcats.

     The game was tied just once early in the first quarter, but they didn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the contest.

      “With the snow day it gave us an extra day to work on our zone and man defenses and the extra work on the man defense showed,” Whiteoak head coach Tom Wessner said. “Getting the extra reps made a big difference with how we played.”

     Whiteoak’s Joe Michael and Fairfield’s Cody Tolle exchanged baskets to make the score 2-2 with 5:59 left in the first quarter. After that, it was all Wildcats.

     Michael finished with 18 points as the junior made eight baskets from the field and was 2 of 3 from the free-throw line.

     Ben Barnett put WHS in the lead with a 3-pointer and Barnett came back with two more points on a fast break, after forcing a turnover, to put the Wildcats in the lead at 7-2. Barnett led the Wildcats with 20 points, sinking three 3-pointers.

     “Ben didn’t have one of his best games in our previous game, but (Saturday) he bounced back with a great game. He worked hard and it paid off. He made three big threes for us.”

     After a jumper from Chris Cox put the Lions down three points, the Wildcats forced another turnover when Michael put up two points on a fast break. Cox led all scorers with 21 points. Cox connected nine times from the field and was 3 of 4 from the free-throw line.

     The Lions continued to make turnovers and the Wildcats capitalized on the miscues, extending their lead to 15-4 with transition baskets from Michael and Barnett.

     “We dug a hole at the start of the game and you can’t expect to win games when you play like we did at the start,” Fairfield head coach Matt Carson said. “We didn’t pass well and we didn’t do any of the small things right. I am talking about all of us, the coaching staff and players.”

     Cameron Rolark, Cox and Tolle scored six straight for the Lions, but it was a put back basket by Michael with two seconds left in the first to give the Wildcats a seven point lead at 17-10.

     The second quarter started the same way the first ended with Michael knocking down another two point basket. Mike Carraher gave the Wildcats an 11-point advantage with free throw conversions 31 seconds into the quarter.

     In some games this season, the Wildcats have had problems adjusting in the second frame.

     “We were finally consistent for the entire game, especially in the second,” Wessner said. “On defense we wanted to make sure they (FHS) had no uncontested shots and no easy layups. That is what we wanted and I feel we did what we needed to do.”

      Still having problems holding onto the basketball, the Lions did manage to put together a 5-0 run with four straight from Cox and a free throw conversion by Tolle.

      Whiteoak’s Logan Morris stopped the run with inside points and Michael added a three-point play to give the ‘Cats a nine-point lead at 26-15 with 3:40 left in the first half.

      Cox scored the final four FHS points, with Jerry Stuckey and Barnett equaling the points from Cox to give the Wildcats a 10-point lead after two quarters.

      “Jerry played well for us,” Wessner said. “Mike (Carraher) got into foul trouble and Jerry did a good job filling in.”

      The Wildcats came out strong in the third with eight consecutive points from Michael, Ethan Eyre and Barnett. Rolark broke up the Wildcat party with a 3-pointer at the 4:39 mark of the quarter.

      Barnett gave WHS an 18-point lead with a 3-ball at the 2:30 mark of the third. Ethan Hawkins and Carraher put WHS ahead 50-27 with points in the final seconds of the quarter.

      Nick Sowders scored first for FHS in the fourth on a forced turnover and transition points. Michael Carson scored late in the quarter for FHS.

      Coach Carson wasn’t pleased with how they attacked the press of Whiteoak.

      “We talked all week to attack them and we didn’t,” the third-year head coach said. “That was our goal, but we had a lot of lazy passes. We fell right into Whiteoak’s hands and lost our rhythm. It is not gut check time for everyone. We have to see how we want to bounce back from adversity.”

      From the free-throw line WHS finished 10 of 18 and the Lions were 6 of 9.

      The win lifts the Wildcats to 5-5 overall, 2-2 in the SHL. The Lions drop to 5-5 and are 3-2 in league play.

      WHS plays again Tuesday as they travel to face SHL foe Fayetteville. The Lions will play Friday, Jan. 15 when they host Fayetteville.




WHS – 17 13 20 11 – 61

FHS – 10 8 9 12 – 39



WHS (61)

Stuckey 2 2-2 6, Barnett 5 (3) 1-4 20, Hawkins 1 2, Michael 8 2-3 18, Morris 1 2, Eyre 2 4, Carraher 2 5-9 9. TOTALS: 21 (3) 10-18 61.


FHS (39)

Sowders 2 4, Rolark 0 (1) 2-3 5, Carson 1 2, Ferrell 1 2, Cox 9 3-4 21, Tolle 2 1-2 5. TOTALS: 15 (1) 6-9 39.

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