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Defense key to Wharton's win

Behind effective shooting and an aggressive defense, Wharton started strong and held off a second-half comeback to defeat Chamberlain 68-49 in a key Class 5A, District 7 game on Friday.

Wharton (10-2 overall, 2-0 district) got out front early, penetrating Chamberlain's zone defense with Josh Simpson or Nate Erickson scoring, or kicking back out to others for 3-pointers. Erickson (10 points) and Simpson (five) accounted for 15 first-quarter points as Wharton took an 18-7 lead. Wharton's quickness was evident as they were able to effectively move the ball to the open man and get good looks.

At the same time, Wharton's aggressive man-to-man defense denied Chamberlain the chance to get passes down low to 6-foot-7 center Kyle Newell. The few times Newell was able to get the ball low, he was immediately contained by two, and sometimes three, defenders. That coupled with shaky shooting for Chamberlain allowed Wharton to take a 35-15 halftime lead.

"I told our guys at halftime that they should expect a run by Chamberlain," Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. "I said they (Chamberlain) are too good a team and too well coached to stay down and that the game was far from over."

The Chiefs (9-3, 0-2) came out with a swarming defense to start the second half and with Jet Steele and James Devlin each hitting two 3-pointers, Chamberlain went on a 18-9 run over the first 5:38 of the third quarter before Erickson's 3-pointer to stop the flow.

"I thought we responded well to that charge by Chamberlain," Tonelli said. "We knew it was coming and we were able to keep our poise and regain control."

Wharton's Darryl Richardson had 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. Shawn Vanzant's needle-threading pass to a streaking Erickson on a fast break gave Erickson the last of his 16 points and sealed the win with 4:21 left.

Devlin, matching his season average, led the Chiefs with 22 points, 15 after the break when he hit four 3-pointers. Steele scored nine, all on 3-pointers.