Whitko Looks To Continue Fantastic Season With Tourney Run

January 30, 2024 at 4:30 p.m.

By Anthony Anderson

The top five scorers represent four different grades, a transfer student was added during the summer, a foreign exchange student was later added as well, and a freshman has wound up the team’s best shooter.
These aren’t the types of things that typically lead to a meshing, harmonious brand of basketball, but these Whitko Wildcats are far from a typical girls basketball team.
Heading into their Class 2A South Adams Sectional semifinal on Friday, the Cats are 18-3 and have already clinched the program’s best winning percentage of at least this millennium. Now they’re looking to add the program’s first-ever sectional crown.
“The camaraderie has been fun,” fourth-year coach Justin Jordan said upon the regular season concluding last week with three wins in three days. “It’s been a super unselfish team, super fun to watch.”
There’s just one senior in the group, but that’s Kloe Krieg, Whitko’s leading scorer for a fourth straight year and a player who’s been through it all, from 2-20 in her and Jordan’s first season, to 6-17 a year later and 9-14 last winter. Sizable advancements in win totals each season, with the most sizable this season.
Through the Cats’ latest stat availability (19 games), Krieg was pacing a strikingly balanced group at 11.5 points per outing.
She was followed by junior Adriyanna Phillips (11.3 points), freshman Jayma Stonebraker (10.9 points, 55% from the field, 3.6 assists, 3.2 steals), junior Braisha Harrison (8.9 points) and sophomore Reese Stonebreaker (8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.0 steals).
Reese is the aforementioned transfer, over from Lakeland Christian, with sister Jayma also being new.
“The girls love them because they’re so unselfish,” Jordan said of incorporating the newcomers. “There have been a couple times where one of them could’ve taken over a game, but they’ve passed up shots and the rest of the team has fed off that.”
Still another new face is junior exchange student Isabel Braconi. She’s delivering a boost off the bench at 5.1 points and 2.2 steals per game.
“Usually, exchange students are soccer players, but she told me she hates soccer,” Jordan recalled with a laugh. “She played basketball with the boys in Italy.”
Another key reserve is 6-foot Gwen Howard, the leader in blocks (1.2) and co-leader in rebounds (4.8).
Offensively, Whitko’s averaging 8.5 made 3-pointers to go with a strong transition game.
Defensively, the Cats press roughly 80% of the time.
“As a coach, your defense is never going to be perfect, but it’s been good,” Jordan said. “We get after it. I would say we lead (the Three Rivers Conference) in steals and deflections.”
Typical of Jordan’s teams, Whitko put in a busy summer, hitting camps or leagues in Fort Wayne, Warsaw and at Ball State to help set up the season.
“You could see something in their eyes,” Jordan said of whether his players expected this season’s success. “I’m not sure exactly how good we thought we could be, but we definitely expected to be better.”
The Cats tied Cass for the TRC title at 8-1, good for Whitko’s first conference hardware in 16 years. Cass also represents Whitko’s only blemish in its last 18 games, a 49-48 loss on the road.
For the sectional, the Cats await Tuesday’s survivor between Adams Central (6-16) and the host Starfires (6-15) in Friday’s second semifinal around 7:30 p.m. The other half of the six-school bracket is loaded with Bluffton (16-6), bye team Fort Wayne Luers (14-6) and Manchester (14-8). The final is set for Saturday evening.
“I would say Luers is definitely the favorite,” Jordan said, citing the Knights’ schedule, “but Bluffton and Manchester, those are good teams.”
Luers is 5-0 to Whitko’s 3-2 against common opponents.
Not only have the Cats never won a sectional title, but they’ve also not won a sectional game since 2017.
“Whitko’s had some great teams, so it’s wild to me that they’ve never won a sectional,” Jordan said. “The girls know that. They know what’s at stake.”

The top five scorers represent four different grades, a transfer student was added during the summer, a foreign exchange student was later added as well, and a freshman has wound up the team’s best shooter.
These aren’t the types of things that typically lead to a meshing, harmonious brand of basketball, but these Whitko Wildcats are far from a typical girls basketball team.
Heading into their Class 2A South Adams Sectional semifinal on Friday, the Cats are 18-3 and have already clinched the program’s best winning percentage of at least this millennium. Now they’re looking to add the program’s first-ever sectional crown.
“The camaraderie has been fun,” fourth-year coach Justin Jordan said upon the regular season concluding last week with three wins in three days. “It’s been a super unselfish team, super fun to watch.”
There’s just one senior in the group, but that’s Kloe Krieg, Whitko’s leading scorer for a fourth straight year and a player who’s been through it all, from 2-20 in her and Jordan’s first season, to 6-17 a year later and 9-14 last winter. Sizable advancements in win totals each season, with the most sizable this season.
Through the Cats’ latest stat availability (19 games), Krieg was pacing a strikingly balanced group at 11.5 points per outing.
She was followed by junior Adriyanna Phillips (11.3 points), freshman Jayma Stonebraker (10.9 points, 55% from the field, 3.6 assists, 3.2 steals), junior Braisha Harrison (8.9 points) and sophomore Reese Stonebreaker (8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.0 steals).
Reese is the aforementioned transfer, over from Lakeland Christian, with sister Jayma also being new.
“The girls love them because they’re so unselfish,” Jordan said of incorporating the newcomers. “There have been a couple times where one of them could’ve taken over a game, but they’ve passed up shots and the rest of the team has fed off that.”
Still another new face is junior exchange student Isabel Braconi. She’s delivering a boost off the bench at 5.1 points and 2.2 steals per game.
“Usually, exchange students are soccer players, but she told me she hates soccer,” Jordan recalled with a laugh. “She played basketball with the boys in Italy.”
Another key reserve is 6-foot Gwen Howard, the leader in blocks (1.2) and co-leader in rebounds (4.8).
Offensively, Whitko’s averaging 8.5 made 3-pointers to go with a strong transition game.
Defensively, the Cats press roughly 80% of the time.
“As a coach, your defense is never going to be perfect, but it’s been good,” Jordan said. “We get after it. I would say we lead (the Three Rivers Conference) in steals and deflections.”
Typical of Jordan’s teams, Whitko put in a busy summer, hitting camps or leagues in Fort Wayne, Warsaw and at Ball State to help set up the season.
“You could see something in their eyes,” Jordan said of whether his players expected this season’s success. “I’m not sure exactly how good we thought we could be, but we definitely expected to be better.”
The Cats tied Cass for the TRC title at 8-1, good for Whitko’s first conference hardware in 16 years. Cass also represents Whitko’s only blemish in its last 18 games, a 49-48 loss on the road.
For the sectional, the Cats await Tuesday’s survivor between Adams Central (6-16) and the host Starfires (6-15) in Friday’s second semifinal around 7:30 p.m. The other half of the six-school bracket is loaded with Bluffton (16-6), bye team Fort Wayne Luers (14-6) and Manchester (14-8). The final is set for Saturday evening.
“I would say Luers is definitely the favorite,” Jordan said, citing the Knights’ schedule, “but Bluffton and Manchester, those are good teams.”
Luers is 5-0 to Whitko’s 3-2 against common opponents.
Not only have the Cats never won a sectional title, but they’ve also not won a sectional game since 2017.
“Whitko’s had some great teams, so it’s wild to me that they’ve never won a sectional,” Jordan said. “The girls know that. They know what’s at stake.”

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