SOUTH WHITLEY — Good teams find a way to make adjustments when things aren’t going exactly the way they usually do.
In a Friday night match-up of two of the Three Rivers Conference’s best teams, it was the Whitko Wildcats who were able to use a rugged defense and adjust when their leading scorer had a bit of an off shooting night.
The end result was a 56-42 win over the visiting Rochester Zebras that kept the Wildcats perfect in the conference.
Whitko’s leading scorer Logan Irwin struggled from the field, going 0-10 in the first half and notching only three points, but the Wildcats used a smothering defense in the first quarter, holding the Zebras to 3-of-11 shooting from the field and only seven points.
The Wildcats picked up a game-opening three pointer from Zac VanDeWater, who led the ’Cats with five points in the quarter. Sophomore Alex Stoddard added a three of his own and senior Max Elder tossed in four points in the first quarter to help the hosts to a 13-7 lead at the first stop.
The Wildcats stretched the lead to 11 at 26-15 on two consecutive inside baskets by junior Derek Snep.
Rochester forward Derek Harris converted inside drives to the basket for six second quarter points to keep the Zebras in the contest. A three-pointer at the buzzer by the Zebras cut the Whitko lead to 26-18 at the half.
Irwin continued to struggle from the field but was able to connect for four baskets and 10 points in the third quarter.
“Logan is going to have shooting nights like that,” Whitko head coach Rob Irwin said. “He hasn’t had one like that in a while, but he did what he was supposed to do and helped the others pick it up offensively.”
Irwin finished the contest with 13 assists on the evening.
VanDeWater added eight of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter and Snep converted a three-point play as the Wildcats stretched the lead to 47-32 at the end of three quarters.
A three-point basket by Kory Wood midway through the final quarter gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the night at 54-34. The Wildcats went to a spread offense to run out the clock, notching the final 56-42 win.
“We were able to match their leading scorers with ours,” coach Irwin said. “VanDeWater had 15 and Logan 13, and Harris and Hoff had 15 and 13 for them. The difference was our other guys outscored theirs.”
Senior Max Elder had 10 points, with Snep adding eight and Stoddard seven, while no other player for Rochester scored over four points.
“Our kids did what they were supposed to do,” coach Irwin said, “and I thought that Zac (VanDeWater) and Max (Elder) did a great job tonight.”
The win raises the Wildcats’ record to 8-2 overall and a perfect 2-0 in the TRC as they begin a stretch of four straight home contests that will match them against the top teams in the conference.
The first of those contests comes next Friday when Whitko hosts the Southwood Knights.