Mired in a six-game skid to end 2017, the Whitewater boys basketball team could have spent the holiday break sulking.
Instead, the Whippets got to work. And their practice efforts showed in a return to the court Tuesday in a nonconference game at Milton.
Whitewater got aggressive, going inside early and often to draw trips to the foul line. The Whippets went 30 of 41 from the stripe and pulled away during the final nine minutes of the first half on the way to an 80-46 victory.
“It was definitely fun to get some chemistry going and get rolling a little bit,” said Whitewater senior Daniel Fuller, who went 13 of 17 from the stripe on the way to a game-high 22 points. “We hit it pretty hard during the break.
“My favorite player is Tim Tebow, and one of his big things is: Work hard when no one else is. I think that’s kind of what we did.”
Whitewater improved to 3-6 this season. Milton is 0-10.
The two teams went back and forth early, and the Red Hawks led 17-16 with less than 10 minutes left in the first half. But the Whippets went on a 13-0 run that included back-to-back buckets from Dylan Pease and six points from Fuller.
“It just comes down to finishing the easy shots and not settling for shots,” Whitewater coach Dan Gnatzig said. “We’re not a team that can just run up and down and hit 3s consistently. We’ve got to get inside and use our strength and sometimes be aggressively patient.”
The Whippets were 16 of 21 from the line in the first half in building a 42-25 halftime lead—bolstered by 17 points from Fuller.
Milton, which made just four trips to the line in the entire game, got within 14 points early in the second half but never closer than that.
“I haven’t usually shot a whole lot of free throws, but I think, as a team, we just need to bring that kind of aggression,” Fuller said. “Our coaches have been preaching to get to the foul line early, and that’s what we did.
“We talked and communicated better on both ends of the floor.”
Roberto Navejas added 15 points for the Whippets, and Ben Kloskey had 10.
Sophomore Brad Bowditch led Milton with 14, while freshman Cade Austin added 13.
It was a strong start to 2018 for a Whippets team that had suffered four losses by single digits in its six-game losing streak. Included in that stretch was a 61-59 loss to Rock Valley Conference unbeaten East Troy.
“We can definitely play with the best,” Fuller said. “We’ve just got to have this intensity and aggression.”
Whitewater hosts Brodhead on Thursday in a return to league play. Milton hosts Watertown in Badger South action that same night.
WHITEWATER 80, MILTON 46
Whitewater (80)—Parrish 2-0-4, Kloskey 4-1-10, Navejas 5-5-15, Fuller 4-13-22, D. Pease 3-1-8, Dedrick 1-3-5, Stoll 1-0-3, Lucht 2-1-5, Gmur 0-3-3, Martin 1-3-5. Totals: 23-30-80.
Milton (46)—Bowditch 5-2-14, Terrill 1-0-3, Radke 1-0-3, Austin 5-0-13, Wecker 2-0-4, Hammer 0-2-2, Nelson 1-0-2, Taylor 2-0-5. Totals: 18-4-46.
Whitewater 42 38—80
Milton 25 21—46
3-point goals—Whitewater 4 (Kloskey, Fuller, Pease, Stoll), Milton 8 (Austin 3, Bowditch 2, Terrill, Taylor, Radke). Free throws missed—Whitewater 11, Milton 0. Total fouls—Whitewater 13, Milton 25.