By MIKE KRAUSE
The boys basketball season opener was full of all the excitement, anticipation, and expectations you could imagine for a heated rivalry in Hoosier high school basketball when the Wildcats went to Columbia City Wednesday, November 24.
The Wildcat’s lineup consisted of five returning starters, with speed, height, sharp shooting and a tenacious defense.
The Eagles lineup was also evenly matched as they had their own sharp shooter in Drew Benedict (No. 3) and 6’6” center Tyler Mosher, one big brute of a fellow. The gym was packed with many more Columbia City fans than Whitko and there was standing room only. Tension was definitely in the air for this ball game.
The game started with Whitko guards Logan Irwin (No. 1) and Mitch Yeager (No. 3) and Zac VanDeWater (No. 5) finding the hoop from three point land. Not to be outdone; Drew Benedict also found the 3 point range for the Eagles and the game was close with the first half score Whitko 29 - Eagles - 27.
The second half was more of the same as both teams had spurts of 6 to 8 points. The Wildcats began to wear down the Eagles and late in the fourth quarter on good shooting by Logan Irwin and some great boards by VanDeWater, Max Elder (No. 15), Derek Snep (No.21) and Alex Stoddard (No. 11) the Wildcats looked as if they had the game in hand.
As fate would have it; with less than a minute to go and a 6 point lead; some bizarre things began to happen. Whitko was called for a foul guarding the Eagles at the Wildcat end of the court.
The Eagles converted the one-and-one to make the score Whitko 58, CC 54. The net effect was the Eagles scored 2 points without consuming any time off the clock. Zac VanDeWater was then called for traveling, which gave the Eagles another possession with seconds on the clock.
The Eagles advanced the ball and at their end of the court, in the fight for a rebound, a leaping Eagle appeared to come down on a Whitko player.
The Eagle player lost his balance and fell to the floor.; The foul was called on the Whitko player. The Eagle player fouled was injured on the play and subsequently; the best Eagle free throw shooter on the night shot the foul shot on behalf of the injured player. The Eagles converted the one and one with less than 20 seconds left to play making the score Whitko 58, Columbia City 56.
Alec Stoddard was then deliberately fouled on the end line pass; and missed the front of a one and one.
The Eagles called timeout with about 14 seconds left on the clock.
Drew Benedict then got the ball with 2 seconds on the clock and made what appeared to be a three point shot giving the Eagles a one point lead 59 - 58.
The officials then huddled and one official changed it to a two point shot.
This is the point where it gets confusing.
The shot was taken right in front of the scorekeeper’s and media bench. Apparently, the photographer for the Columbia City Post and Mail indicated Benedict’s foot was beyond the 3 point arc in one of his photos. The three points were then allowed.
Whitko took the ball with 1.7 seconds left and lobbed a long pass to VanDeWater who launched a three pointer as time ran out.
Before the ball hit the rim; Zac was called for traveling again for the second time in less than a minute. The game ended.
This reported checked with several reporters at the game and they indicated Benedict's foot was in two point area when he shot the ball.
Guess we will never know; but somewhere there is a game film that may or may not solidify the Eagles last second Victory. Much to the chagrin of Whitko fans, three days later when the Whitko Wildcat girls team played the Warsaw Tigers, they drew two of the same officials.
Near the end of the game, several players from both teams literally dived on the floor for a loose ball. The same official that overturned the two point CC shot to a three point shot called a technical foul on a Whitko player.
What was bizarre about this call is that Warsaw was ahead by 18 points with 10 seconds to go in the game. Perhaps a Whitko player did push a Warsaw player as from my vantage point it was hard to see with girls strewn all over the floor.
In high school sports; players are taught to play by the rules and demonstrate good sportsmanship, even when the inevitable bad call goes against them and they loose. That is life!
I’m not a player, I’m a reporter; and this is what I observed.
Two traveling calls, two fouls, and a disputed 3 point shot all but erased a 6 point lead in less than 40 seconds against a very good and very disciplined boys basketball team.
To the Eagles’ credit; they converted four out of four free throws and made the game winning shot!!
To the Wildcats credit they demonstrated they will be a difficult team to beat in the days and weeks ahead.