DENVER — The Wildcats took the court with heavy hearts Friday night at North Miami.
Minus head coach Rob Irwin, who began treatment for Leukemia this week, Whitko was able to pull off a conference win at North Miami 64-51 for their coach. In the process, the Wildcats clinched at worst a share of the Three Rivers Conference title.
Not only was Whitko’s leading scorer lacking his head coach, Logan Irwin has not played as a Wildcat without his father on the sideline.
But Logan proved his strength, scoring 28 points and shooting 80 percent from the free throw line.
“Logan’s a tough kid, he’s going to give you 100 percent all the time,” interim head coach Mike Kline said.
Coach Kline proved to be a good fill-in for the ’Cats, leading them to the win.
“Coach Kline, he’s just like my dad, he’s been a coach here since I’ve been here,” Logan Irwin said.
Irwin took over in the first quarter, scoring 12 of Whitko’s 17 points.
The Wildcats defense held North Miami (3-11, 1-5 TRC) to a mere four points in the first quarter.
Zac VanDeWater found his shot behind the three-point line snatching three of his four in the first half.
“Zac shot the ball well in the first half,” Kline said.
Whitko (13-2, 6-0 TRC) took a 34-14 point lead going into the locker room, but North Miami wasn’t going to give up in the second half.
The Warriors outscored Whitko 18-11 in the third quarters, despite Irwin’s four-point stretch in the final 15 seconds of the quarter.
North Miami’s Paul Hayes scored 11 of his 18 points in the third quarter and carried his hot streak into the fourth where he tallied six.
With six minutes left in the game, North Miami pulled Whitko’s lead to nine points 49-40 and held the score to a nine-point difference with 3:18.
VanDeWater ripped the momentum from the Vikings with a dunk, which fired up the Wildcat’s offense, extending the lead to 13 to finish the game.
VanDeWater followed Irwin with 19 points.
Whitko, who is undefeated in the Three Rivers Conference and guaranteed at least a share of the TRC title, looks to seal sole ownership of the title next Saturday against Manchester.
The last time the ’Cats held a share of the title was in 2009.
“We got out hustled a little bit in the second half, but as coach Irwin says, ‘a win is a win,’” Kline said.