SHELBY — Whitehall has grown so accustomed to playing uncomfortable, choppy games that the discomfort has almost grown, in a way, comfortable. However, the Vikings weren't comfortable enough to come away with the win over Shelby Friday night, as some key miscues led to a 50-47 defeat.

The Whitehall offense, the team's weak spot all season, was actually good by its standards, but allowing a few too many easy baskets on the other end bit the Vikings this time around.

"We're struggling to get a win, and we finally play well offensively and our defense falters," Whitehall coach Derek Westerlund said. "That's one of those frustrating things where we have to put it all together."

Westerlund said mental miscues were key. Certainly the most obvious one came after Shelby's Lauren Brown scored an and-one basket to make the score 42-36 in the fourth quarter. The Tiger forward missed the free throw, but no one on either side made a move to the basket for a rebound except for Shelby's Kendall Zoulek, who even missed the putback before anyone reacted. She then scored her second attempt.

"Mentally there were just some huge mistakes that at the varsity level you just can't make and beat teams like Shelby," Westerlund said. "That was a huge play. And the fouling in the first half. How many fouls did we have 40 feet from the basket? We did a good job in the half-court D, but when you're giving them free throw after free throw...We just mentally were not into it tonight."

Indeed, the Tigers entered the bonus in the first quarter and were able to get to the line a bunch of times in the second as a result, helping keep Whitehall (3-7, 2-4 West Michigan Conference) at bay.

Another defensive issue came on fast breaks. Three or four times, Shelby players broke loose from the Whitehall press for easy baskets.

"A little bit of that is on me," Westerlund said. "We should've pulled out of the press. They did a good job breaking it...When we set up in the half-court, we did a great job, but when we gave them layups and free throws and almost automatic baskets, it's tough."

The Vikings did pull within a point on a trey by Onnyka Dempsey early in the fourth quarter, but Shelby answered with an 8-0 run that included that free throw blunder. Though Whitehall did knock down a couple of more threes late in the game, one each by Marissa Strandberg and Charley Klint, it wasn't enough to really make Shelby sweat. Whitehall hit one last shot to cut it to three inside of 10 seconds, but the Tigers were able to run out the clock.

Klint carried the offense, as she has so much of the season, with 24 points. Lola Buckner hit three triples in the first half to keep the Vikes in it early.

Westerlund told his team that the bright side was they'll get another shot at Shelby, as well as all the other league foes they've lost to so far.

"That's the good thing about basketball is we can run through the league again, and I think we can beat any of them," Westerlund said. "We're going to have to play well and play good offensively, and mentally we just have to finish games."

WHITEHALL (47) Carnes 1 0-2 3, Buckner 3 0-0 9, Zamojcin 1 1-2 3, Strandberg 1 1-2 4, Dempsey 1 1-2 4, Klint 7 8-12 24. Totals 14 11-20 47.

SHELBY (50) Brown 3 0-1 6, Schultz 2 7-10 11, Klotz 2 0-1 5, Olmstead 3 2-5 8, Zoulek 6 4-6 18, Sly 0 2-2 2. Totals 16 15-25 50.

Whitehall....14 11 8 14 — 47

Shelby........17 12 8 13 — 50

Three-point goals — Whitehall 8 (Carnes, Buckner 3, Strandberg, Dempsey, Klint 2), Shelby 3 (Klotz, Zoulek 2). Total fouls — Whitehall 21, Shelby 17. JV score — Shelby 30, Whitehall 23.

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