Even though his team fell behind by 10 points during the opening stages of Wednesday’s varsity basketball game against , boys basketball coach Mike Potsou wasn’t concerned about his Warriors' ability to rally.
The coach didn’t yell or even seem to raise his voice. He simply called timeout and pulled the Warriors together to regroup.
“I don’t do a lot of ‘rah-rah’-type speeches,” Potsou said. “We just talked about what we weren’t doing right, and what we needed to do better.”
And that simple talk led to a brilliant charge by the Warriors, that quickly led to them regaining the lead, and eventually led to a solid 43-36 victory over the visiting Rams.
“I thought it was a good game,” Potsou said. “Both teams played well. Ladue got a little fast start, and hit some shots. But we responded well, and it’s always nice to get a win.”
Senior Darrion Harris led all scorers with 15 points, with three three-pointers on a night when he hit six-of-11 shots, and also added five assists and four steals.
Teammates Darius and Dimitri Rucker also had big nights for the Warriors, with older brother Darius – a 6’3 senior – tossing in 13 points, and 6’4 “little brother” Dimitri adding nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Darrion is such a great little player,” Potsou said. “I don’t know how many points he had tonight, but he hit some really big shots for us. And Darius and Dimitri were just great controlling the inside for us. And they’re all unselfish. They just play hard and play together. It’s a (pleasure) to coach those guys.”
Whitfield took control of the ballgame in the third quarter, with a 13-2 run that gave the Warriors a 36-24 edge with about a minute left in the period.
But Ladue rallied in the fourth, thanks to diminutive sophomore point guard Cornell Johnston, who had 15 points, five assists, and four steals for the Rams.
The 5’6, 120-pound speedster, who battled tooth-and-nail all night with Whitfield’s Harris, made a scintillating runner in the lane, with just over two minutes left, that pulled Ladue to 39-36.
And then after a Warrior turnover, Johnston had a chance to tie the game with a deep three-pointer, but he clanged the shot off the back rim. A Dimitri Rucker rebound followed by two free throws essentially sealed the game for Whitfield.
The Warriors are now 8-3 on the season, and will spend the rest of the weekend prepping for the weeklong D.C Wilcutt Invitational Tournament at CBC next week.
“We’ll probably get the 2-seed, and CBC will get the 1 most likely,” Potsou said. “I probably shouldn’t speculate. There’s going to be some good teams in it. I know we’re looking forward to it. We always like facing good competition.”
Looking ahead, good competition is about all Whitfield will see the rest of the way this season.
Ladue was 7-2 coming into Wednesday night. Add in the potential for three tough games next week on top of February matchups with O'Fallon Christian, Maplewood, and Borgia before district playoffs and it means there's no room for letdown moving forward.
“They’re high school kids, and it’s really hard to predict how they’ll react to certain situations,” Potsou said. “But our kids are battle-tested, and they know our expectations. I was really proud of how they responded to the test tonight.”
WHITFIELD WARRIORS REMAINING BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
1/8-1/13 D.C. Wilcutt Tournament 7 pm
@ CBC High School
1/18 at 7 pm
1/24 vs. McCluer South-Berkeley 6 pm
1/30 at Jennings 6 pm
2/3 vs. O’Fallon Christian 7 pm
2/4 vs. Maplewood 3 pm
@ Hazelwood Central High School
2/6 at St. Francis Borgia 7:30 pm
2/9 vs. Barat Academy 6 pm
2/14 at Gibault (IL) 7:30 pm
2/17 vs. 6 pm
2/21 at Brentwood 5 pm
2/23 vs. Bayless 6 pm
2/27-3/2 MSHSAA Class 3 Districts
@ Whitfield School TBA