Richie Whigham drilled on the A-B-Cs of shooting at a young age. “I would shoot at the basket in my driveway before the bus came for kindergarten,” Whigham recalled.
Consider those lessons well-learned. Whigham made seven three-pointers to lead Kellenberg to a 56-42 victory over host Freeport Monday in the annual George Emma Classic, named for the Red Devils’ revered and highly successful basketball coach.
“Threes have been my thing for my whole life,” said Whigham, a slender 6-2 junior who came off the bench to jump-start the Firebirds sluggish offense.
His first three-pointer, from the right wing with 2:13 left in the first quarter, was part of a 7-0 run that put Kellenberg (3-10) ahead for good. He hit another one later in the period and drained two more in the second quarter as the Firebirds took a 31-15 lead at the break.
“No doubt, that’s what he can bring to our offense – an outside threat,” Kellenberg coach Jack McCutheon said. “He’s a streak shooter, but he’s our best three-point shooter. He kept moving, got open and we passed him the ball.”
Whigham has been a starter at times this season, and hit seven threes against South Side on Dec. 28, but McCutcheon wanted to try a taller lineup, so he waited for the right moment to put Whigham in the game. That strategy worked so well that McCutcheon stuck with it in the second half, bringing Whigham off the bench midway through the third quarter.
Whigham missed his only trifecta of the period, but made up for it in the fourth quarter when he three in a row from downtown. The last one gave the Firebirds their biggest lead, 49-30, with 4:30 left. Daniel Wilson scored 11 points for Kellenberg. Talique Jackson led the Red Devils (2-9) with 14 points while Jayden Bumpass and Tristan Sabb contributed 11 apiece.
“We had a chat after our last game,” McCutcheon said, referencing last Friday’s one-sided loss to Chaminade in which Whigham was held scoreless. “I told him that he has to move without the ball to get open shots.”
Whigham was paying attention. He ran the baseline and cut off teammate’s screens to get free, mostly from the wing. “Last game I didn’t move. I know I have to work hard to get my shots,” Whigham said. “We ran a few screens, but most of the shots came within the offense. It’s not just me. It’s guys finding me when I’m open. It was a great feeling to hit those shots. I think that swung the game in our favor.”
Even though he has endured some cold shooting spells this season, Whigham remains a fearless shooter. “That happens a lot, that I’ll miss some shots,” he said, “but I’m always confident the next one will go in.”