By Ryan Buck
Need someone to win a free throw competition? Poland High senior Kevin White is your man.
Need a tough, disciplined, poised point guard to run your team with the game on the line? He’s a sure thing.
White drained 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter, 13 for the game, to push the Bulldogs past a strong West Middlesex squad 52-46 in the finale of the United Way Holiday Basketball Classic Saturday night at the Poland Fieldhouse.
The Bulldogs (3-0) needed his presence at the foul line as the Big Reds pulled to within three points late and needed missed free throws from Poland.
No such luck.
“Once I got into a rhythm, I just kept wanting to go to the free throw line and get my points,” said White, a first-year starter. “I worked all offseason for this moment and I just needed to take advantage of it.”
Often the smallest player on the floor, he makes up for his height with an intensity that underlies a strong feel for his team and the game. He’s an extension of coach Ken Grisdale.
“He handled the ball and wanted to get to the foul line,” said Grisdale. “I think he’s the one guy on the floor that wanted to go to the foul line.
“He’s a kid that’s waited his turn as a senior. He played a little bit as a junior, JV player as a sophomore, and he’s worked really, really hard and he’s given himself an opportunity.”
White has seized control of the role of the floor general.
“I tell people every day that I’d rather have 10 assists than 20 points,” White said. “Coach told me at the beginning of the season that my job is to get the ball where it’s supposed to be and I have no problem with that.”
After a sluggish first half that saw the Bulldogs outmuscled in the paint by Big Red (1-2) forwards Matthew Dogan and Trey Staunch, Poland seized the momentum of the game with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter.
For the second game in a row, Grisdale and assistant coach Chad Fender called for a full-court press.
“We were originally trying to make it a possession game and use the clock because that’s a nice team,” said Grisdale of West Middlesex. “If they don’t hit their first shot they rebound well, but then we really just weren’t getting in any flow. We thought we had to scramble this a little bit.”
They also negated the Big Reds’ advantage in the paint.
“They played a little bit of box-and-one in the second half,” said West Middlesex coach Chad Mild. “I thought some of our shots just didn’t fall and I don’t think we did a really good job of distributing the ball either. They kind of packed it in on us.”