Phil Anastasia: Kendall White leads Rancocas Valley to win
It was a defensive game, Kendall White's kind of game. The twist last night was that Rancocas Valley's defensive ace made his biggest impact at the offensive end.
It was a defensive game, Kendall White's kind of game.
The twist last night was that Rancocas Valley's defensive ace made his biggest impact at the offensive end.
Oh, White was up to his usual tricks at the other end, pressuring the basketball, clogging the lanes, drawing two of the five offensive fouls the Red Devils took against Williamstown.
"That's what our team is all about, taking charges," White said.
Still, it was at the other end of the court where White made the biggest difference on this cold night inside Rancocas Valley's gymnasium. The 6-foot-4 senior scored 18 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, as the Red Devils emerged with a 62-54 victory in an entertaining and competitive clash of South Jersey Group 4 heavyweights.
"Kendall took over the game," said Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan, whose 2-0 team is No. 2 in The Inquirer Top 10.
As the defending Group 4 state champions, Rancocas Valley can expect every opponent's best punch. But the Red Devils knew what to expect from Williamstown, which lost in overtime to Rancocas Valley last season.
Last night's game had that look for long stretches, as neither team was able to generate much in the way of offensive continuity. It was the game both coaches wanted - and expected: two teams playing tight man-to-man defense, denying every pass, battling every possession.
"I know Jay, and he knows me," Williamstown coach Bill Hunt said. "We played 99 percent man defense and so do they. You knew it was going to be a good, hard-nosed game, with neither team giving an inch."
That's how it played out, as Williamstown forced Rancocas Valley out of its offensive sets, and the Red Devils did the same thing to the Braves.
"We couldn't run our stuff," Flanagan said. "They are such a good, well-coached team."
The difference for Rancocas Valley was that White seized command of the game in the fourth quarter.
A lefthanded slasher, White drove to the basket for three hoops in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. He finished by going 6 for 8 from the foul line in the final three minutes.
"I knew I had to step up for my team," White said. "But everybody contributed."
White was a key player for the Red Devils during last year's remarkable run to the Group 4 state title, along with fellow senior Mike Bersch, who scored 15 last night.
This is a different team, with the pair of freshmen, Tariq Jett and Dom Twitty, in the starting lineup, and a bunch of other athletes who saw limited action last season in the regular rotation.
But the Red Devils don't show any signs of complacency, even with that state championship banner hanging on the wall. They matched underdog Williamstown's intensity, and much of the credit for that should go to White.
White might have been the difference in the game at the offensive end. But he played defense with his typical tenacity, and that rubbed off on his teammates.
"Our effort is there," Flanagan said. "We played hard at the defensive end, which is what we have to do."
White said before the season that he didn't care "if I don't score a point," as long as the Red Devils win. That wasn't going to happen against Williamstown.
So the defensive star made his mark at the offensive end.
"He's not known as an offensive player," Hunt said of White. "But he took control of the game, which is what a senior is supposed to do."