MOWRYSTOWN — The Whiteoak Wildcats hosted Southern Hills Athletic Conference and cross-county rivals the Fairfield Lions on Friday in front of a packed house at Whiteoak High School and rallied after halftime for a thrilling 50-38 win.
In the first quarter the Wildcats trailed by four points on two occasions at 4-0 and 5-1 before closing the quarter on a 10-5 run to take an 11-10 lead after one quarter of play.
Wildcat Zach Rand was a a force to be reckoned with in the first quarter when he had seven of Whiteoak’s 11 points including a three pointer that got the Wildcats going on the offensive side of the floor.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair that featured three ties and a last second lead change on free throws by Fairfield’s Austin Setty that gave the Lions a 22-21 lead at the half.
Whiteoak came out of the locker room on a mission in the third quarter as they turned up the defensive pressure and blitzed the Lions en route to a 14-5 advantage in the quarter that swung the momentum in the favor of the Wildcats.
Once again it was Rand with a three point basket that got things started for the Wildcats, Deavin Cumberland followed up with a basket of his own that came off of a slick assist by Traeten Hamilton after Fairfield’s James Bentley tied it at 24.
From there Whiteoak turned to Hunter Ruckel who hit a three pointer and back to back two point baskets to push the Wildcats’ lead to nine points at 33-24 and forced Fairfield to call timeout with 2:00 to play in the third.
Following the timeout by the Lions Ruckel hit two free throws with 1:38 to play and Lions’ point guard Wyatt Willey hit a three pointer late in the quarter to pull Fairfield within eight points at 35-27 as the teams prepared for the fourth and final quarter of play.
Both coaches pointed to the start of the third quarter as the difference in the game.
“We always preach the first three minutes of the second half and making the other team call the first timeout,” said Whiteoak head coach Blake Kibler. “We really forced the issue in that third quarter.More importantly we executed on the offensive end. The first half we were just trying to get in a flow and get some movement and stuff and it wasn’t really kicking in. In the second half we got the Ruckel kid some nice looks and that really started our offense.”
“In the third quarter we let them jump out to a big lead. We gave up on our intensity a little bit in the third quarter and that was the difference in the game,” said Fairfield head coach Josh Howland.
In the fourth quarter the Lions tried to fight back but the atmosphere in the building and the stellar play of the Wildcats was too much to overcome as Hamilton, Rand and Ruckel were able to convert at the line late to secure the win for Whiteoak.
Score by quarters
Whiteoak: Cumberland 1-2; Hamilton 5-4/10-14; Ruckel 4(1)-8/8-19; Rand 1(2)-5/9-13; Yeager 1-2
Fairfield: Setty 2/2-2; Buddlemeyer 1-1/3-3; Willey 2(2)-1/1-11; Saunders 1-1/2-3; Simmons (1)-3; Priest 2-4; Bentley 6-12
Ryan Applegate is the sports editor for The Times-Gazette. Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.