PANTHERS PULL EVEN WITH TIGERS IN NLC
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 1, 2020
NAPPANEE — Warsaw’s Tigers entered Friday’s Northern Lakes Conference contest at NorthWood shooting at a blistering 61 percent clip over the past six quarters of play. Those numbers cooled down significantly against a tenacious Panther defense, however.
The home team held its guests to just 16-of-51 (31.4 percent) shooting from the floor and beat them in nearly every statistical category. Most notably, ‘Wood converted 29 free throw attempts in 44 trips to the line, and the Panthers collected a 56-44 win over their NLC rivals at the Pit.
“We have a lot of respect for the Northern Lakes Conference, and any time that you can get a win in this conference it’s earned and hard-fought. I think it’s something that we can build on in the future,” said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe.
“They were more solid offensively. They were more solid defensively. They played well,” conceded Warsaw coach Doug Ogle.
NorthWood’s intermittent full court pressure and ball hawking in the half court yielded nine of Warsaw’s 13 total turnovers over the first half. Six of those came in the first period alone as the Panthers grabbed a lead they would never relinquish via a Ben Vincent steal and an Iaan Raash free throw less than four minutes into the game. The Tigers still only trailed by a manageable 26-19 deficit at halftime, but ‘Wood held Warsaw to woeful 1-of-13 shooting from the floor and just four points total during a 10-4 third stanza that pushed the Panthers out to a 36-23 lead, a cushion they would eventually balloon to 40-23 before the Tigers began to claw their way back in the fourth.
“I thought our players did a nice job tonight communicating in every defense,” said Wolfe of his team, which mixed defenses throughout the night. “I thought our first-shot defense was very good, and I think that that contributed to maybe a lower field goal percentage. I think where we struggled was maybe getting the ball after the first shot, rebounding the basketball. But our guys did a nice job, they were very aware, and fortunately they missed some shots, which is always helpful.”
Although he acknowledged NorthWood’s defensive execution, Ogle thought his players didn’t do themselves any favors by relying on the three-point shot against the Panthers’ zone looks. The Tigers converted just three attempts from beyond the arc in 25 tries at the Pit.
“We shot too many threes that were either too deep or too challenged or too quick. We can’t shoot 25 threes. We need to shoot half that — 12. We shot too many threes, didn’t get the ball inside enough, and that’s what happens,” he explained.
“All their defenses were good, and I just think it was just a rough night for us. Very little went right. We need to own this and see if we can do better moving forward. But we didn’t quit and almost got back in it after being way down, so I see that as a positive.”
A 7-1 spurt midway through the final frame cut the Panther advantage down to just six, and they still led by just six when a near-steal high in the NorthWood half court was ruled out on the Tigers, bringing the Warsaw bench to its feet. The guest bench was whistled for a technical foul, and Brock Flickinger buried both free throws with 1:31 remaining to spark a 5-1 mini-run that pushed the home team back out to a double-digit cushion. All told, ‘Wood attempted 24 free throws and made 15 of them in the fourth quarter alone.
“We did a good job of getting back into the game. We cut it to six and had a ball over on the sideline that we thought we’d maybe get it and then we get a technical foul. Hey, you can’t do that in that situation,” said Ogle.
“I was proud of our effort to continue to attack the basket. I thought late we did a good job of converting our free throws — better than we did early. And I thought that was the difference in the game,” Wolfe said.
Trent Edwards poured on 21 points to go with another game-high three steals to lead the Panthers. His 5-of-8 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter was crucial.
“Trent Edwards has been very good for us all year, and I think what has been magic for him is his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways,” Wolfe said. “Sometimes he shoots the ball. Sometimes he gets to the basket. Sometimes he gets to the free throw line. Sometimes he has to defend, rebound, and he is able to do those things for us on a night-in, night-out basis.”
“Edwards was the best player in the game, and usually when you have the best player in the game, you win the game,” Ogle said. “He’s a good basketball player, and their other guys did a good job. (Brock) Flickinger I thought played well. He was very efficient.”
Flickinger and Vincent each finished with 10 points, and the Panthers welcomed back senior forward Jason Borkholder — who had been sidelined since taking a nasty spill on his head at Wawasee back on Jan. 10 — as he chipped in six points to go with three rebounds. His slam dunk and old-fashioned three-point play at the 6:39 stop of the third period gave the home team its first double-digit lead of the night and all the momentum in the world.
“I’m proud of Jason for him to be able to attack the basket in transition, especially after the fall that he took three weeks ago,” said Wolfe. “I thought it took a lot of courage. And I thought it was a momentum-swing for us.”
Blake Marsh was held to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting after scoring in double figures each of the past five games for Warsaw. Luke Adamiec led Warsaw with 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Brock Poe chipped in nine points with four rebounds in the Tigers’ second NLC loss of the season. The Panthers pulled even with the Tigers — as well as Plymouth — at 3-2 in the conference. Northridge leads the league race at 5-0.
Warsaw will look to bounce back fast with a non-conference home game opposite Elkhart Central Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at the Tiger Den. ‘Wood will wait to play NLC foe Concord next Thursday at 7:45 p.m.
Warsaw’s JV did win Friday’s opener, 49-44. The JV Tigers and Panthers swapped leads 11 times in that contest before the decisive, 19-13 fourth quarter. Jaxson Gould piled on 20 points with eight rebounds to lead the visitors, while Judah Simfukwe and Kyle Dawson each scored 10, the latter also passing out four assists, blocking three shots and clutching seven caroms. Cade Brenner nearly matched Gould’s production with 19 points for NorthWood. Raasch scored seven, and Brock Bontrager put up six for the JV Panthers.