With the Falcons trailing Cherokee 64-61, Whittemore picked up a technical foul arguing a pivotal no-call after contact between two players with 15.4 seconds remaining in the contest.
A second technical was called on Volunteer guard Christian Green on the ensuing possession, and the Chiefs escaped Church Hill with a 67-61 victory after trailing by double digits midway through the fourth quarter.
“Two officials did a great job and one official decided the game for everybody,” Whittemore said. “We had a close game with two minutes to go and, to me, the 10 kids on the floor ought to be able to decide it.”
Whittemore contended that the official who issued him the technical foul didn’t give him a warning before making the call.
“He didn’t even say watch your mouth, that’s enough,” Whittemore said. “The best officials are the ones that you don’t even know are out there. Everyone noticed him tonight.”
The frantic finish wouldn’t have materialized, however, if not for the heroics of Matt Hale and Ty Ryans.
Hale scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, many of those coming during a 9-0 spurt that allowed the Chiefs to close to within a single point after trailing 52-42.
Ryans, a freshman, also had 19 points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that tied the game at 60 and a pair of free throws in the final seconds that helped the Chiefs ice the victory.
Cherokee coach Jeremy Parrott said Volunteer went to a box-and-1 defense to try to neutralize Hale and it opened the door for Ryans’ big shot.
“The zone look they were giving us, we’ve got a zone set in that was based on the center and we were just going to try to feed (Hale),” Parrott said. “Then we had to counter and of course the freshman hit a big 3.”
Logan Bailiff added 10 points for Cherokee (6-4) while Green and Cody Moore had 12 each for Volunteer (2-3).
The Chiefs’ win overshadowed a huge night for Volunteer’s Devon Forgety, who dominated the paint and led all scorers with a career-high 27 points.
Meanwhile, the Lady Falcons were able to hold off a late charge by Cherokee to win 59-47. Volunteer (3-4) went 21-for-21 from the free throw stripe to turn back the Lady Chiefs (2-7).
Volunteer coach Jerry Myers said he can’t remember one of his teams performing better from the foul line.
“I think I probably had teams go 6-for-6 or something, but not that many,” he said. “That was big. We had a lot of different people make foul shots at the end, too.”
Katie McFarland went 8-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter and led all scorers with 18 points. Ashley Lindholm added 15 for the Lady Falcons while Casey Ryans scored 18 to pace Cherokee.