FORT WAYNE — After Wednesday night Whitko boys’ basketball is in damage control.
Despite seeing maybe its most prestigious record, Whitko has been on the worst stretch of the season.
After battling back from as much as 13 points down, the Wildcats surrendered their third consecutive loss as the buzzer sounded at Carroll 54-53.
“We played a little better tonight I thought,” Whitko head coach Rob Irwin said. “We battled back when it looked like we could cave so I was happy with tonight.
“We play like this, get a little bit better tomorrow and win Friday, we’ll be fine in sectional,” Irwin noted.
The focus of any team facing Whitko has been the Wildcats’ point guard Logan Irwin.
Coming into Wednesday’s game one point shy of the all-time points record at Whitko, Logan Irwin broke it with 1:06 gone in the first quarter.
The record turned out to be Logan Irwin’s only field goal of the first half with Carroll sagging into a zone defense.
“We wanted to try and make him give it up soon,” Carroll head coach Marty Beasley said of Irwin. “I thought we did a real good job on him. One-on-one you can’t guard him. He’s so quick, strong and gets into your body so well. He is the driving force so we needed two guys on him and the only way is in a zone.”
The Chargers held Irwin to one of his season lows with 15 points — four points coming in the first half.
Meanwhile, Carroll recognized it’s leading scorer Tyler Ault as a McDonald’s All-American nominee. Recently, Ault became just the fifth Charger to score 1,000 points in his career.
Wednesday, Ault showed why he’s one of the best in Carroll’s history. Going 7-of-10 from the three-point line, Ault helped the Chargers build up a 19-6 lead on the Wildcats in the first quarter.
Carroll opened 5-for-5 from behind the arc.
With Logan Irwin tightly guarded, Whitko turned to senior Zac VanDeWater for help. The Wildcats’ length inside found his shot in the second quarter going for nine of his team-high 22 points.
“Zac played well tonight,” coach Irwin said. “He took good shots and played good defense.”
The Wildcats ran out to an 11-0 run early in the quarter. By the end of the quarter, Whitko regained the lead momentarily, 27-25, on a VanDeWater drive to the basket.
A buzzer beater before the half set the tone for the second half. Ault pulled off a steal and jump shot giving Carroll the 28-27 halftime lead.
Ault returned to have his biggest quarter of the night in the third. The Charger senior went for 14 of his game-high 28 points in the quarter connecting on four three-pointers.
“Tyler got hot there for awhile,” Beasley said. “When he gets hot he can carry it for us. That’s why he’s the career leader in three-pointers made.”
Despite seeing the deficit grow back to as much as 11 points in the fourth quarter, Whitko gave itself a chance for the win.
VanDeWater hit a three-pointer with 28.1 left cutting the Carroll lead to 53-52. The Chargers went 1-for-3 at the line in the final 22.3 seconds.
Logan Irwin tied up the game making one of two free throws with 13.1 left.
Ault drew a foul with 04.3 remaining giving Carroll a 54-53 lead.
One final drive and pass by Logan Irwin had an open look for VanDeWater but the shot missed at the buzzer.
“We got the penetration and pitch to Zac, who’s made baskets,” coach Irwin said. “We had a chance to win it. That’s all you can ask.”