The Whitfield Warriors return to action by hitting the road twice this week fresh off winning the first Rotating 8 Invitational.
Whitfield (12-3) plays at Brentwood (4-7) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 20). The Warriors will play at Duchesne at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We always look forward to competing,” Whitfield coach Mike Potsou said.
The Warriors will put a six-game winning streak on the line. Whitfield has won nine of its last 10 games.
“They are starting to figure it out and play with consistency,” Potsou said. “If we can keep this level of focus and effort this team will have a chance to have a special season. They will need to remain focused on the process, not our record, and continue to work hard in practice for one another in order to reach one of our basketball-related goals this season.”
Whitfield hosted the Rotating 8 and was the tournament’s top seed.
The Warriors opened with a 62-30 win over Clayton.
“We defended really well and were extremely efficient offensively in the first half,” Potsou said. “Our point per possession for the first half was 1.65, which is exceptional. Much of that was due to the hot hand of senior Chadd Montgomery who drilled six 3-pointers in the first half.”
Whitfield defeated University City 61-52 in semifinals. This was another good win for the Warriors, Potsou said.
“It was a nice win for us as U-City has a nice team with two really good players,” Potsou said. “Their team has scored a lot of points this season so holding them to 52 was an accomplishment. We executed well on both ends of the floor, but unlike our first game versus Clayton, our wide open looks from 3-point range, we missed 14 3-point attempts. (That) didn’t help us put points on the board.
“Despite that, we came away with a nine-point victory and it proved that even when things are not going our way, we can find a way to win and I credit our student-athletes’ ability to learn from their previous experiences.”
That brought up the championship match against St. Charles West. There is not much history between the two teams.
“They are a well coached and disciplined team,” Potsou said. “They beat SLUH (St. Louis University High) in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Tournament this season, so you know they are capable.”
Potsou noted his club wasn’t too high for the game. The Warriors treated it as just another contest on the schedule and not as an opportunity to add hardware to the trophy case.
“Like any game, the boys went through their normal pre-game routine and prepared themselves mentally and physically, Potsou said.
It worked. The Warriors played well and recorded a 52-30 victory to take the championship.
Potsou was pleased with how well his club played.
“This was one of our best defensive performance from our team all season,” Potsou said. “After being tied 8-8 at the end of the first quarter, we only allowed 10 more points to St. Charles West until the third quarter with 1:55 remaining. Our team really competed, defended on and off the ball well, and finished their stops by securing the rebound.
“I was really proud of how they executed and competed on the defensive end.”
The boys were excited about winning. However it was something else about the postgame locker room that caught Potsou’s attention.
“They performed well and were happy to win the championship against a good team,” Potsou said. “When I entered the locker room after the game, they had Bryce Berry on speaker phone, and the entire team was surrounding the phone.”
Berry, a senior, missed the game due to a loss in his family, Potsou said.
“Although Bryce was not physically with us, it was special to know the team didn’t want him to miss out on our celebration,” Potsou said. “That moment was one example of just how close these guys are with one another.”
During the tournament, Potsou said “multiple players contributed to our success.” Different played stepped up at key moments to help in the three wins.
He noted that Montgomery stood out against Clayton. Sophomore Torrence Watson made his presence felt against University City. Against St. Charles West, it was senior DeVaughn Rucker who stood out.
“That said, (sophomore) Will Matthews averaged a double-double in his first two games and (freshman) Cyrus Alexander and (junior) Jordan Crouch really gave us a boost defensively when we needed it most. (Senior) Collin Strege came off the bench late and responded well in two games. It was truly a total team effort.”
Watson was named to the all-tournament team. He also was named the MVP of the tournament.
Whitfield made history by winning the first ever Rotating 8. Potsou is just pleased to see his club perform well in a tournament environment.
“Anytime you can win a game or tournament, it feels good,” Potsou said. “This was not exception as the field consisted of good teams and coaches.”