David Watson blew up again from behind the arc for 22 points.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
Four quarters just wouldn't have done it justice.
That's why the battle for the number two spot in the region 4B-AAAA was decided in overtime. The Starr's Mill girls basketball team withstood an inspired effort from a galvanized Whitewater team that was eager to redress a blowout in the first meeting between them, to win 48-44.
"It came down to the wire, it really did. I almost pulled my hair out," said Panthers coach Shane Ratliff, whose team improved to 14-6 overall and more importantly 8-3 in the region. "But my freshmen stepped up and we played pretty well in the overtime."
Whitewater's Danielle Ross was a force to be reckoned with in this game as she scored a game-high 14 points to go along with a stockpile of rebounds while her teammate Kaelyn Dugger chipped in with a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Fortunately for the Lady Panthers, they were able to counter with a total team effort as three players went for eight points and two players went for seven points.
"This win helps us going into the region tournament." Ratliff said. "We sealed up the number two seed and I'm excited about that so I'm ready for us to get healthy and hopefully make some noise in the region tournament."
The game was tight all the way through as neither team led by more than two points after the first four quarters. After four lead changes in the fourth quarter that were highlighted by a Dugger putback that put Whitewater ahead 36-35 with two minutes remaining, Starr's Mill would tie the game when Katie Wilson split a pair of free throws. Both teams just were unable to manage a basket before regulation expired.
In overtime the Lady Panthers found the hot hand again as they opened with a 5-0 run which was just enough cushion to outlast the last blows the Wildcats were able to throw as the game drew to a close.
"This is a different team than the beginning of the year," said Whitewater coach Rashad Muyee of his team which fell to 11-9 overall and 6-5 in the region. "We're getting better every game. We're playing together and we're doing what we're supposed to do. The effort we've had the past couple of games has been great."
"Even though we came up short tonight, I can't ask them to do anything else," added Muyee.
Both teams have region games with Northgate and region leader McIntosh to close out the regular season as they gear up for the region tournament.
In the boys half, tempers were flying in the contest between heated region rivals.
Maybe it was because the Whitewater boys basketball team was steadfast on wiping the taste of defeat to Starr's Mill (44-43) on a game-winning shot by Jeremiah Vrudny in the last meeting.
Despite the Wildcats putting up more points this time around, it was still the Panthers coming away with yet another close win, this time by a final score of 67-64.
"I thought we battled and showed a lot of guts," said Starr's Mill coach Brandon Hutchins, whose team improved to 14-8 overall and 9-3 in the region which is good enough for the number two spot behind McIntosh. "I thought we came through when we needed to."
Starr's Mill's David Watson erupted for a game-high 22 points which included five three pointers, while his teammate Will Anda followed up with 19 to help the Panthers survive a contest that included three technical fouls and an ejection in the fourth quarter.
Vrudny added 15 points including a couple of rim-rattling jams that provided his team with momentum down the stretch.
Whitewater's Darius Sharpe scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the first half including 10 straight in the last-minute of the second quarter to help his team cut a double-digit deficit to 31-22 going into halftime.
In the third quarter Whitewater completed the comeback capped off by a three pointer by Sharpe as time expired to put the Wildcats up 42-41 going into the fourth quarter.
Starr's Mill retook the lead in the opening moments of the fourth quarter and were up by 50-47 at the 3:32 mark when Whitewater's Junaid Olusesi, who had been a big part of Wildcats effort in the game with 13 points, picked up his second technical foul and was ejected from the game after the officials whistled him for excessive contact on a chase down shot block attempt. This resulted in four free throws for the Panthers, along with the momentum and ultimately the victory.
Whitewater's Phil Cofer reached a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the loss which dropped the Wildcats to 12-10 overall and 5-6 in the region.
Starr's Mill still has an outside shot at the top seed in the region as it needs to win out in its last two games of the season and hope that either Whitewater or Creekside can upset McIntosh.
"I think this win gives us tons of confidence going into the tournament knowing that we can play with anybody in the region," Hutchins said. "We're going to see them (Whitewater) in the tournament so it has to give us confidence."