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SOUTH WHITLEY — It takes two to tango but it also takes a pair of teams, wanting what only one can have, to add a little physicality.
Most like to call it a knock down, drag out contest.
Friday night’s Whitko (2-1) boys’ home opener was just that. The Wildcats were in search of their first win in the state of Indiana while Norwell (2-1) looked to remain perfect.
Using a combined 40 points two of northeast Indiana’s top 10 scorers, Whitko muscled past the Knights 58-47.
“It got physical and we got tired but the good thing about tonight was Kory Wood stepped up made a basket,” Whitko head coach Rob Irwin said after his 45th win with the Wildcats. “Derek (Snep) and Max (Elder) are battling inside.”
Despite 22 points from its junior standout Logan Irwin, the win didn’t come easy for Whitko.
For a little more than a quarter, Norwell hung with the Wildcats going point-for-point with physical play that slowed down the Whitko attack.
“I thought they did a nice job slowing him down especially in the first quarter,” coach Irwin noted of Norwell’s defense on Logan Irwin.
Even with a poor shooting start from the field, Logan Irwin scored 15 points in the first half.
After a deadlocked 11-11 game extended into the second quarter, a Whitko defensive change spurred a 20-9 scoring advantage for the ’Cats.
“We’re long and we went one-two-two zone and pressed them,” coach Irwin commented. “They’ve got a young point guard and (we) bothered him a little bit. Once we got it out of his hands they struggled.”
Whitko forced eight of Norwell’s 20 turnovers for the game in the second quarter. An 11-3 run widened a slim 20-17 lead for Whitko into the largest either team saw to that point. Logan Irwin scored the last six points of the run before halftime, leaving the Wildcats up 31-20.
The second half, Norwell’s top scorer Josh Vanmeter tried to help the Knights inch back into contention scoring 11 of his team-high 20 points in the third quarter. The last of those came on a his third three-pointer of the period just before the buzzer sounded.
“I didn’t know he could do that,” coach Irwin said of Vanmeter. “We saw him one time. We didn’t help by not guarding him very well and not switching on him.”
However, Whitko’s lead grew to as much as a 17-point margin and stood at a 45-33 lead after three quarters.
“We got a win at home,” coach Irwin said. “This is a good group of kids. They’re settled in and know their roles. The group is tight and that’s how it needs to be for us to win.”
Nine points was as close as Norwell could get. The Knights fouls caught up with them having two players foul out.
Whitko’s night at the foul line helped the cause going 17-for-26 as a team. Senior Zac VanDeWater hit five of those free throws in an 18-point performance.