Seniors help Whitewater power past Northgate
by Chris Goltermann
Northgate will be glad to see the last of Whitewater seniors Phil Cofer and Kaelyn Dugger when the 2013-14 basketball season comes to a close.
Both made their presence known inside the paint for respective lineups long enough to help lead teams to victories in Friday's Region 4B-AAAAA doubleheader at Johnny Brown Gym.
Northgate juniors Ebonee Echols and Wendell Watson left everything they had on the floor in consecutive 47-32 and 61-46 losses, enough that respect ive head coaches Matt Trucks and Maurice Smith made sure to hug their heads and share words of encouragement as they came off the floor for the last time.
'He was a spark for us,' Smith said of Watson, who had nine of his team-high 16 points for the Vikings in the third quarter. 'We tend to get outsized by teams most nights, so we really have to battle.'
Echols, meanwhile, scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter while trying to rally the Lady Vikings back. Playing with a sore ankle in the second half, the junior guard volunteered herself back into the game after initially coming out to have it looked at as Northgate outscored Whitewater 19-15 in the final period.
'I told her at the end when I took her out the last time, you don't have to prove anything else to me,' said Trucks.
Both Northgate lineups trai led from star t-to-f inish while outsized and outrebounded by athletically gifted Whitewater teams.
The Wildcats' were led by Cofer's 20-points highlighted by a 10-point second-quarter effort.
Meanwhile, Dugger and junior teammate Jada Coggins - both at 5-9 - teamed for eight of the Lady Wildcats' opening points while dominating the offensive glass for a 10-4 lead and getting several second and third-chance opportunities off rebounds.
Coggins chimed in four in the second and five more in the third to help give Whitewater's girls a 32-13 advantage en route to a team-high 13-point effort for the Lady Wildcats.
Katie Mitchell kept the Lady Vikings in the game by scoring all nine of her points prior to the final period, with three of her four field-goals coming off assists from her backcourt teammate in Echols. Northgate's girls also finished 7-for-10 from the line while the Lady Wildcats hit just 7 of 16 attempts.
With Whitewater going to a deep bench, Echols scored 12 of Northgate's final 19 points while 4-for-4 from the line. A late 3-pointer by Sydney Wells pulled the Lady Vikings to 13, but with only under a minute to play.
In the boys contest, Watson and the Vikings equally struggled to pull closer than a 13-point deficit in the second half after Cofer put together a 10-point second quarter that included the first of four slam dunks on the night.
The talented 6-foot-8 senior gave Northgate fits down low, as did senior teammate Justin Simpson-James off the bench in the opening period.
Simpson-James scored six of his 17 points in the first including two early putbacks to put Whitewater ahead 11-6 after one quarter.
Cofer then took over in the second to help Whitewater's boys go ahead by as many as 18 points before settling for a 32-15 lead at halftime. Jacob Robinson had six of the Vikings' 15 points at the break on a pair of 3-pointers.
With Northgate 6-5 center Alex Rutherford relegated to the bench with four fouls in the third after battling a trio of Cofer, Simpson-James and senior Kyle Dugger, who scored six of his eight points for Whitewater in the second quarter, Watson tried to bring the Vikings back to life in the third.
The junior connected on three shots, the last of which on a drive to the basket as Northgate closed to within a 45-32 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. But a 13-point deficit remained a stopping point.
Viking senior Aldrekus Evans added two 3-pointers in the final period en route to a 12-point effort and Robinson polished off his nine points with one more of his own.
But Cofer added three more thundering dunks in the fourth for Whitewater while Simpson-James all but put the game away with a three-point play on a basket and free-throw off a feed under the basket from Dugger.