Whitewater didn't just get a big win on the gridiron this weekend. The Wildcats basketball team won the thriller on the court, 40-39 over Sandy Creek on Saturday.
The Wildcats have been a work in progress, improving steadily under reigning county coach of the year Jason Barnes. Barnes's Cats might have their signature victory after this one.
"It was an extremely exciting win," said Barnes. "Whitewater has been a bit of a doormat in basketball around here. We're trying to develop an identity. We've still got a lot of work to do, but the kids are starting to believe in what we're doing and they're starting to believe in each other."
The game was far from pretty. Both teams battled back and forth, exchanging leads seemingly everytime up the court.
"We just kept telling our kids it was going to be sloppy, it was going to be physical," Barnes said. "We had to keep grinding. You have to be proud of the hustle and intensity from both sides."
The highlight of a first quarter that the Patriots would lead 15-12 came on a sweet reverse layup by Dale Earhart.
Whitewater took a turn bringing the crowd to their feet early in the second quarter when Junaid Olusesi notched a steal and threw down a dunk. A late bucket by Robbie Harlfinger gave the Wildcats a 23-22 halftime lead.
An excellent tumbling competition by cheerleaders from both sides got the crowd geared up for an exciting second half.
The lead volleying continued as a three point play from Creek's Janauri Smith was countered by a baseline bucket from Whitewater's Philip Cofer.
The Patriots carried a three point lead into the final frame and picked up momentum on a vicious block by Ronald Bell and a three from Kenny Lewis. Cofer heated up for the Cats, especially around the rim, pulling Whitewater within 39-38 on a thunderous putback dunk.
Whitewater grabbed the lead back for good when Darius Sharpe drove to the lane and got a shot to fall with 13 seconds left. A last second attempt by the Patriots would fall just short.
The victory for Whitewater continues their strong early season run, pushing their record to 4-2.
Philip Cofer led all scorers with 15 points. Christian Turner and Kenny Lewis each netted eight for the Patriots.
Before the boys game tipped off, the girls went at it with Sandy Creek winning 63-16.
The Lady Patriots controlled the game all night, especially in the second half where they held the Wildcats to just four points.
For a Patriot team with big aspirations, they'll take the win, but they know they have work to do.
"We're working on getting better. We're trying to work on us," said Lady Patriot head coach Cedric King. "We've got a special group, but we have a long way to go."
Sandy Creek's Sydney Jarmon led all scorers with 17 points. Recee Walker followed with nine, while Jasmine Jones and Safiya Martin each added eight points. Kaelyn Dugger led Whitewater in points with five.
The win runs the Lady Patriots' early season record to 2-1.