TIGERS MAINTAIN BUSINESS AS USUAL
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 13, 2021
By Nick Goralczyk
PLYMOUTH — Quiet gymnasiums have become all too expected in the pandemic world we are currently living. Friday night’s scene during the game at Plymouth High School was really no different, not even for a home crowd gathered for the school’s annual Winter Homecoming. The limited attendance crowd was tame.
But after the game? Well, there were no walls thick enough to absorb the whooping and hollering from the Warsaw locker room. The Tigers were a celebrating a 70-44 win over rival Plymouth, a victory that clinched their share of the Northern Lakes Conference crown.
Plenty of question marks were floating around prior to the season. The Warsaw program was turning the reigns over to a new coach for the first time since the 2002-03 season. As unpredictable as new beginnings can be, things felt pretty normal at 1 Tiger Lane as the 2020-21 NLC season wrapped up. Friday’s win gave the Tigers their sixth conference title in the past seven seasons.
Though it was business as usual for the Tigers, it was a milestone for their new head coach.
“It does a lot for our program’s foundation. For me personally, it’s my first championship as a coach. So, it means a lot, especially with this group,” an exhilarated Warsaw head coach Matt Moore said following his team’s win.
Moore, now in his seventh season overall as a head coach, had big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Doug Ogle. Then there is still the proverbial shadow cast over the program by Al Rhodes, Ogle’s predecessor. Ogle and Rhodes combined for 678 wins in their respective tenures at Warsaw.
“For a long time Tiger basketball was identified by two men,” Moore explained, referring to Rhodes and Ogle. “And both were in the program for that duration of the time. So, for an outsider to come in and in some ways and establish my culture, it kinds of builds off of (Rhodes’ and Ogle’s). But it gives us, hopefully, and understanding of where we can go with years of depth through our youth level, getting it to the place we want.
“I think this is a destination job and I think its a place that we can continue to have success and find championships along the way and we got one tonight.”
As Moore walked away from the media, he turned around, thanked the various members of the press corps and then channeled Ric Flair by letting out a boisterous “Woo!” that echoed throughout Plymouth’s gym.
That energy was the residual left over from a rivalry game that was far from competitive but highlighted by a well-balanced win from the Tigers.
Warsaw came out hot and really never cooled down. The Tigers, aided by a trio of trifectas from Bishop Walters, led 20-3 after the first quarter. Plymouth started to wake up in the second period but the Tigers hit four shots from deep in the frame, including two more from Walters to hold a 38-18 lead at the half.
The perimeter was extremely friendly to the Tigers in Friday’s game. Warsaw was 12-18 shooting from downtown with Walters leading the way with six makes from long range to give him 18 points in the game. Jaxon Gould added four shots from beyond the arc and led all scorers with 26 points on 11-16 shooting from the field.
When Gould was not occupied tickling the twine from deep, he was picking the pockets of just about every Pilgrim ball handler. Gould tallied six steals on the night and added eight assists and five rebounds, all teams highs, to round out his dominant performance on the court.
After the break it was more of the same from Warsaw. The Tigers continued to establish themselves as the better team, winning all four quarters on the night. Judah Simfukwe gave the highlight of the second half as he drained a half-court shot to beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter. The junior guard finished the night with 10 points.
Jackson Dawson added six points for the Tigers while Drew Heckaman came off the bench to score five. Kyle Dawson and Ben Bergen rounded out the scoring for Warsaw with three and two points, respectively.
Plymouth (2-17, 0-7) found some success from deep, hitting seven threes in the contest. Nolan Bales and Tanner Feece each had eight points for the Pilgrims. Davis Wray came into the game averaging just 4.9 points per game but went 4-5 from deep to lead the Pilgrims offensively.
Warsaw (13-7, 6-1) will share its conference title with Mishawaka (13-2, 6-1). Friday’s win marked the seventh straight for the Tigers over Plymouth. It also secured another historic milestone in the storied history of Warsaw athletics. The 2020-21 athletics season is the first time that Warsaw has ever simultaneously held the conference championships for both football and boys basketball, per WCHS statistician Roger Grossman.
The Tigers will play their final game at the Tiger Den this season when they host Wabash (4-12) Saturday evening. Warsaw wraps up its season the following Saturday with a game at South Bend Washington then will have at least 10 days off before starting its postseason run at North Side Gymnasium.
In the junior varsity contest Warsaw outscored Plymouth 17-7 in the fourth quarter to earn a 40-32 victory. The JV Tigers were led by Nick Katris’ 10 points while Tayde Kiser and Jeremiah Dawson each scored eight points. Tyler Kuhn and Austin Polk tallied seven points each for Warsaw in the contest.