Whitesboro pulls away from S&S in 10-3A action
WHITESBORO — The overhaul to the starting lineup was expected long before the season began because of the Bearcats finished last year with five senior starters. It wasn’t until the end of their run, reaching the region final to put the program on the brink of the state tournament for the first time since 1965, to see just how big those shoes to be filled were going to be.
“You can have a good group but at some point they’re going to be gone,” Whitesboro head coach Toby Sluder said. “When you graduate a group like that, with three guys who started three years and a four-year starter, you lose a lot of experience.”
This year’s version of the Bearcats has been gaining a lot of valuable lessons by remaining in the thick of the 10-3A race after a 60-35 victory over S&S in a district makeup contest.
“It makes them work a little harder I think,” Sluder said about the several fresh faces following one of the best seasons in program history. “You want them to think they can do it too, have that mentality.”
Torran Naglestad had 18 points, six steals and four assists, Jake Hermes added 13 points, Jackson Kupper chipped in nine points and Mac Harper finished with eight points for Whitesboro (9-9, 5-3), which moved a half-game in front of Pilot Point and Paradise as the trio are tied in the loss column for third place. The Bearcats play at Paradise on Friday night.
“I hope we can do what we need to do, get some wins and make the playoffs,” said Sluder, who earned his 200th career victory last week.
Jake Reynolds had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Brett Steward chipped in six points for S&S (4-13, 2-6), which had won two straight to earn the program’s first district victories since 2017. The Rams travel to Pilot Point on Friday.
Whitesboro broke the game open in the third. Steward quickly pulled S&S back to single digits but the Bearcats then notched eight straight points with Harper hitting a pair of shots in that stretch.
Reynolds did his best to chip away at the gap but Whitesboro got a three from Kupper with 1:26 to go in the frame that sent the lead past 20 points for the first time it was a 47-25 contest heading to the fourth.
“A little bit better ball movement than earlier in the game. Sometimes we get a little stagnant,” Sluder said. “I like our versatility. We have a few guys who can be productive any given night.”
A quick 8-0 spurt from the Bearcats to open the second quarter pushed their lead to double-digits as Naglestad and Hermes hit three-pointers before Eli Mahan’s two free throws got S&S on the board in the middle for the quarter.
Reynolds, who had eight points in the first half, tried to produce some momentum for the Rams right before the break with a three-pointer to trim the deficit to eight but Blake Beste drilled a three — the Bearcats’ fifth triple in the half — from the right corner and Whitesboro went into the locker room up 26-15.
Whitesboro only had a two-point advantage after the first quarter and that was because Naglestad hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds left in the frame for a 10-8 lead.
Neither team got off to a good start as Whitesboro went up 5-4 almost five minutes into the contest. Naglestad carried the offense for the Bearcats with seven of his 13 first-half points while Reynolds had an early three and then gave the Rams, who did not scored more than 10 points in any quarter, their last lead at 8-7 with a putback in the final minute.