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Coincidence or not, Whatley on fire again against a mid-Mo. foe in Ozark victory

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Schools from the central part of the state continue to bring out the best in Ethan Whatley.

Whatley poured in 28 points versus Columbia Hickman on Friday in Ozark’s 74-64 triumph.

Over his three-year varsity career, Whatley has enjoyed a career-high 35-point performance against Capital City this season, a 28-point effort opposite Hickman two years ago and a 22-point outing versus Blair Oaks this season.

Throw in the Tigers’ trip to Hickman last season and their Sectional matchup with Columbia Rock Bridge two years ago and Whatley has scored in double figures in seven games against Boone and Cole county schools.

Ozark will face Jefferson City Helias next month.

“Maybe we need to play some more of those schools,” Whatley said.

“I wish he would visualize playing them every game,” Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer said.

Whatley actually recalled his 28-point game against Hickman from two years ago prior to Friday’s game. It was a breakthrough contest for him during his sophomore season. 

“Anytime it’s Hickman, I think about my big sophomore game,” he said. “But right before this game, I was just thinking about playing, going hard for my teammates.”

Ozark trailed Hickman 18-14 after the first quarter, while Whatley was scoreless.

“He did a great job of letting the game come to him after his first two shots, which he missed, were forced,” Schweitzer said. “I got him out and said, ‘Hey, you’re forcing.’ Sometimes, when I do that he stops being aggressive, which is the opposite of what I want him to do. I want him to choose better shots. He did a great job of that.”

Tyler Harmon also starred, although he, too, had an inauspicious moment. He inadvertently fired a three-quarters court shot with :13 still remaining in the first half.

“Right as I was rebounding (a missed Hickman shot), I heard, ‘3 seconds,’ from Schweitzer,” Harmon said. “What my teammates have told me is he was talking about 3 seconds in the lane on their big guy. I had no idea how much time was left, but after I heard that I knew it was running down so I put one up. It was super embarrassing.”

Harmon went on to cap a 23-point night with an authoriative dunk in front of Ozark’s student section.

“Harmon had an awesome game,” Schweitzer said. “Early, he carried us.”

For Whatley, his countdown to the 1,000-point milestone can begin. He needed 350 points at the beginning of the season to reach 1,000 and is now 100 or so away.

“It’s getting close. But I have no idea how close,” Whatley said. “It’s a big individual accomplishment, but I’d rather go 4-0 in the month of January than get to 1,000 points in January.”

Remarkably, Ozark (10-5) has just four games on tap this month.

“We only have four games in January, so each of them we need to win,” Harmon said. “Each game could make or break our month.”

The Tigers open COC play at home Tuesday versus Branson.

“We’ve got to get on film and get to work on what we want to do to stop them and they’re going to have figure out how to stop us,” Schweitzer said. “They haven’t been able to do it in the recent past. Our motion (offense) has been pretty good against them. We’ve had good offensive performances against them. Hopefully, that continues.”

HICKMAN (64) — Richardson 5 1-1 12, Camp 7 1-2 15, Stroupe 5 0-0 11, Townsend 5 0-0 15, Wilson 2 2-5 6, McNeil 2 0-0 5.

OZARK (74) — J. Whatley 5 2-4 12, Little 0 0-1 0, Miller 3 0-0 7, Harmon 10 1-3 23, E. Whatley 11 3-4 27, Wright 2 1-3 5.

Hickman 18 10 20 16 - 64

Ozark      14 21 21 18 - 74

3-point goals - Townsend 5, E. Whatley 2, Harmon 2, Miller, McNeil, Stroupe, Richardson.

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