Prep Basketball: Emotional Whitewater holds off NorthgateBy CHRIS GIROUARD
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
With the news of assistant coach Noah Chalkley’s untimely death this week hanging over their heads, Whitewater’s boys basketball rallied from behind Friday at home to hold off Northgate 57-53 in an emotional game between Region 4B-AAAAA rivals.
Chalkley died after reportedly suffering a heart attack while working out on Wednesday. In a moving tribute following the game, Whitewater’s team joined in a circle and bowed their heads in prayer and remembrance as Phillip Phillips’ song ‘Home’ played in the gym.
The Wildcats turned a two-point deficit in the second quarter to a 55-45 advantage with two minutes left in the contest. That’s when the Viking defense clamped down and closed the gap with long-range shots.
Luke Motzel got the comeback bid started when he outmuscled a rebound over Whitewater large front line and scored on a putback. Northgate made a couple of big defensive stops in between that score and a three-pointer by Peyton Cain.
Trey Stargill then followed up with an NBA-range three of his own, to pull Northgate to within a 55-53 deficit with 28 seconds to go.
From there, Whitewater’s David Bowler missed a pair of free throws to give the Vikings hope for tying the game.
Northgate worked the ball to Stargill who got an open look from long range, but was unable to connect on his second straight three-point attempt. The Vikings immediately fouled on the inbounds pass, but lost sharpshooter Wendall Watson in the process on his fifth foul.
Whitewater’s Junaid Olusesi made just one of two free throws, making the score 56-53 and leaving the door open for a tying three-pointer with 15 seconds left. The Vikings worked the ball up the floor and tried to get an open look.
But an errant Northgate pass was intercepted and Bowler made 1 of 2 free throws to put the game out of reach.
“We had a good play drawn up at the end,” Cain said. “We turned the ball over, but that didn’t lose the game. That’s just part of the game.”
Northgate’s defense made Whitewater’s top two players, 6-foot-8 sophomore Phillip Cofer and Darius Sharpe, work for 22 and 14-point efforts respectively.
“We went man and didn’t do a bad job,” Cain said. “We did a pretty good job on their big kid (Cofer). He did get a couple of dunks, but we did alright.”
The coach also praised the play of Alex Rutherford off the bench for the second straight game. Rutherford had three points in the second quarter of Tuesday’s win over Creekside with teammate Adrian Tolbert ineffective early. Tolbert came back to score nine points over the final 20 minutes.
“(Alex) Rutherford came off the bench for us for the second straight game,” Cain said. “He played well for us. If we keep getting better and better as we head toward the tournament we will be ok.”
Stargill led the Vikings in scoring with 19 points. Payton Cain and Adrian Tolbert added 8 each, while Motzel and Watson netted 7 apiece.
In girls action, the Lady Vikings were able to hang tough for a half but eventually were outmatched by the Lady Wildcats 50-24 while coming off Tuesday’s win over Creekside.
Whitewater turned a three-point halftime lead into a more comfortable 37-19 advantage by outscoring Northgate 20-5 in the third quarter.
Northgate got on the board first with a free throw by Ebonee Echols, coming off a 20-point effort from Tuesday.
Whitewater, however, came on with 8 straight points over the next 4 minutes, forcing Northgate to put together a run of its own over the final 1:37 of the quarter to tie the game.
Myriah Render made a three-point play to start it off. Amber Radda grabbed a rebound and went up strong to make the score 8-6. Alexis Sutton added a layup off a steal and feed from Echols to close out the first quarter tied 8-8.
The second quarter was also back and forth. Northgate got a pair of free throws by Echols and a bucket in the post by Radda to give the Lady Vikings their final lead of the game, ahead 12-10.
Echols and point guard Katie Mitchell led Northgate with five points apiece. Radda finished with four.