McFarland High School boys basketball coach Jeff Meinholdt admitted it wasn’t every day his team got to play against a 7-foot tall player. But that’s what the Spartans had to deal with when Whitewater came to visit Feb. 13.
Junior Jake Martin led all scorers with 21 points, but McFarland came away with a 66-55 win in a battle between the Rock Valley Conference rivals.
“Martin has gotten so much better since he was a freshman, and he was tough to handle,” Meinholdt said after Martin scored 12 first-half points to keep the Whippets within four points of the Spartans, 29-25 at halftime.
Earning the defensive assignment was McFarland’s tallest player, 6-foot-7 senior Max Hanson. Meinholdt said Hanson worked well against the larger Martin and disrupted Whitewater’s offense by getting into the passing lanes and deflecting some passes that led to some steals.
“He’s always tough. Sometimes he gets the ball and there’s not much you can do,” Hanson said. “He gets his points, but we do our best.”
It looked like the Spartans (10-8 overall, 8-6 in the Rock Valley Conference) might run away with the game with nine straight points to start the second half to lead 38-25. But Whitewater came back as a tip in by Martin and a 3-point shot by junior Carter Brown reduced the lead to 38-37 with 11:30 remaining.
“We were just sloppy and turning the ball over at a rate we shouldn’t be,” Meinholdt said. “We were making some really bad passes that we don’t want to make. When you do that, you take some shots away from yourself.”
A 12-2 run by the Spartans, including two 3-point baskets by junior Jackson Werwinski, rebuilt the lead to 50-39 with eight minutes to play.
Two free throws by junior Peter Zimdars knocked it down to 54-45 with six minutes to go, but that’s as close as Whitewater would get as a layup by junior Blake Kes increased McFarland’s cushion to 66-51 with under a minute to play.
McFarland was led by Werwinski with 17 points and junior guard Pete Pavelec with 16.
Meinholdt said it was nice to have his varsity roster back to normal after the flu sidelined some of his players for several games.
“It helps we have some guys healthy,” Meinholdt said. “We got some guys back in the lineup that were missing over the past two weeks or so.”
The Spartans made seven shots from the arc with Werwinski hitting three and Pavelec two.
Zimdars had 10 points for Whitewater.
McFarland travels to Beloit Turner 7:15 P.M. Friday, Feb. 21, for another Rock Valley Conference battle.