Defense helps Whitewright top Bells
BELLS — The half-time adjustments all came on the offensive end of the floor because for what Whitewright and Bells were doing defensively, there wasn't a reason to change a thing.
No matter where the ball went, there was someone in close proximity. There were shots swatted at one end, a charge taken at the other. Pressure in the paint and before crossing halfcourt.
And after the third quarter saw a total of 12 points scored and the Tigers clinging to one-point lead, there was little doubt how the game would end.
Whitewright managed the defensive end a little better than the Panthers in the closing minutes and the Tigers came away with a 44-35 victory over Bells in District 11-3A action.
"I want to give the kids all the praise and Bells as well," Whitewright head coach Jansen Trotter said. "We both play some really good defense. Rebounded well. I think all the games in district, they're all going to be defensive, tight games. I knew coming in we were pretty equally matched."
Aaron Pitt scored 15 points while Jeremiah Camarillo and Xavier Cox-Dunlap each added eight points and Kayden Carraway chipped in six points for Whitewright (9-4, 2-1), which hosts Bonham on Friday.
The Tigers moved into a tie with the Panthers and Blue Ridge for second-place. Whitewright’s district loss came against Blue Ridge and Blue Ridge’s district loss is to Bells.
Tanner Carter had 15 points while Blake Rolen and Cooper Smith finished with five points apiece for Bells (9-2, 2-1), which travels to first-place Pottsboro on Friday night looking to rebound after its consecutive losses.
"We've got to remember how much far we've come in the last year-and-a-half rather than dwell on this last week," Bells head coach Troy Willis said. "We knew this would be our toughest stretch of the season going Callisburg, Whitewright, Pottsboro."
The Panthers, who scored just 10 points in the second-half, were still in position to come away with a victory after they were down 34-33 after Carter's drive with 3:50 to go in the game.
It was Bells' first points of the fourth but Whitewright had made only one shot as well, a putback from Pitt after the opening 3:30 in the quarter was scoreless.
Another minute went by before Pitt drilled a three-pointer from the left side. Smith answered underneath for Bells to get it back to a two-point margin but the Panthers never scored again and Camarillo put the game away by hitting two straight shots, the last a three with 1:24 left.
"We haven't been in a lot of tight ballgames. Either we beat people by 10 or get beat by 10," Trotter said. "A game like this, all it takes is a six-point swing and it's over."
In the third quarter, neither side was able to do much and the frame started how it ended — with Whitewright clinging to a one-point lead.
Carraway and Cox-Dunlap had baskets in the first minute to give the Tigers a bit of breathing room but they would have only one more bucket in the quarter. Caleb Kennemur hit a foul-line jumper with 2:34 showing and that was the rest of Whitewright's offense in that eight-minute stretch.
Bells didn't get on the board until Rolen's drive at the 3:46 mark. Bo Baker followed with a jumper but the Panthers' only other points in the frame were on Carter's up-and-under in the final 30 seconds to produce a 6-6 stalemate and Whitewright holding a 32-31 lead.
Pitt made a pair of free throws in the middle of the second quarter that put the Tigers on the brink of a double-digit margin at 26-18 but Whitewright never scored again in the half.
Bells notched the final seven points heading into the break, including a three-pointer from the left wing by Brock Baker at 43 seconds which pulled the Panthers within 26-25.
Whitewright did almost half its scoring in the first quarter and took a 19-13 advantage into the ensuing frame. From there it only got harder on both teams to produce any offense but the fast start gave the Tigers just enough of a lead they never lost over the final three quarters.