TIGERS TAKE NLC ROUND ONE OPPOSITE WARRIORS

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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, December 21, 2019

Warsaw’s Brock Poe brings the ball up the wing under pressure from Wawasee’s Ethan Hardy and Kameron Salazar Friday night. (Photos by James Costello)

WARSAW — Friday’s Northern Lakes Conference-opener at Warsaw started out pretty much the way Wawasee wanted — a deliberate, plodding pace had the Warriors and the Tigers knotted at 6-6 more than halfway through the first period.

But Warsaw’s pressure high in the halfcourt and a run of 12 straight points by the hosts undermined Wawasee’s game plan, turning up the tempo to one more the Tigers’ liking in an eventual 54-36 win.

“In this game we wanted more possessions. We want a high-possession game,” explained Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “It was starting out a real low-possession game and then we were able to defend and shoot well enough to force them into playing a normal possession game. They’re trying to keep the game in the 20s and 30s, which is smart by Coach (Jon) Everingham to do that, but they didn’t handle the ball well enough to be able to do it.”

“The way the game started, Coach Ogle called timeout to change their defense up a little bit. He’s one of the best coaches in the state, and you’re not going to throw him a curveball,” recalled Everingham. “He changed, forced us to the middle and was not letting us go to the baseline. We successfully got their big guys out away from the basket, but you can see how good they are in the paint taking charges and keeping you out of the paint. Our plan was to get them away from there, but once they pressured us out away from the basket near halfcourt, we kind of struggled just a little bit handling the ball.”

Wawasee was able to keep its deficit within single digits throughout most of the third quarter before a 7-0 quarter-ending run by the Tigers put the home team out front by 15 heading into the final frame, earning Warsaw its fourth straight win.

Bishop Walters dishes inside-out as Austin Miller and Keaton Dukes defend.

The Tigers were efficient on the offensive end, knocking down 20-of-35 shots from the floor, including 16-of-21 from two-point territory as they outscored their guests 20-8 in the paint. They passed out 15 assists on the way to those 20 field goals, including five from Bishop Walters — who also led the team in scoring with 13 points — and three apiece from Wyatt Amiss and Blake Marsh. Luke Adamiec put up 12 points off the bench and was particularly active during Warsaw’s early 12-0 run spanning from the 3:27 stop of the first to the 7:16 mark of the second.

“We were pretty efficient tonight. I didn’t realize we were 16 out of 21 on twos,” said Ogle. “Our zone offense — our team has some good passers, and that makes the zone offense easier. Everything comes easier when you’ve got some guys who can pass.”

Wawasee made just 11-of-35 shots, meanwhile. The Warriors were able to stay in it largely at the free throw line, where they went 11-of-13. They made each of their first 10 attempts from the charity stripe, including an 8-for-8 effort in the first half.

“Very excited that we got to the free throw line. Last year and some games this year, we’ve struggled to attack the basket,” said Everingham. “We saw improvement during the game from somebody like Keaton Dukes, who got a charge taken on him because he jumped off one foot; next time he goes down in there, jump stops, pivots and gets to the free throw line.”

“We just fouled too much. In the first half we put them at the free throw line eight times. They only had four baskets in the first half, but we fouled them too much. So we said we’ve got to foul smarter,” Ogle said. “For sure moving forward we need to be smarter about how we foul. It’s not a bad thing to foul, but some of our fouls were unnecessary and put them at the free throw line when they were having trouble scoring if they just have to run offense.”

The Warriors battled foul trouble of their own at the Den, too.

Jack Stover gets around Brock Poe in the second half.

Leading scorer Austin Miller was whistled for his third foul in the first quarter and was quickly saddled with his fourth less than a half-minute into the third period. Miller finished well below his average with nine points and five rebounds, although Everingham chose to leave him on the floor rather than let his team fall too far behind while saving him back. Ethan Hardy collected four fouls all within a span of a little more than two minutes late in the third quarter. He finished with eight points and five rebounds. Jack Stover paced the Warrior offense with 11 points.

“We were in foul trouble all night with Hardy and Miller. Miller is an extremely good defender and it took some of his aggressiveness away early, and that hurt us bad,” explained Everingham. “Obviously you’re risking him going out of the game, but he starts the second half and I think he scored five straight. It was one of those things — we’re darned if we do, darned if we don’t.”

“It hurt them that Austin Miller got in foul trouble. It hurt them bad. He’s averaging 16 points a game, and he got nine,” Ogle echoed.

Wawasee slips to an even 3-3 following back-to-back wins over West Noble and Whitko headed into Friday’s conference-opener. The Warriors play Central Noble next Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“I think for us this season is about continual improvement,” said Everingham. “We’re always going to be happy when we see guys improving. Tonight you could see some things we didn’t do real well, and then we got better within the game. We got better this week of practice. We got better within the game. It just wasn’t good enough against a good team.”

Warsaw moves to 6-1 and will play Kokomo at Grace College Saturday at 4:30 p.m. before a holiday layover that ends Jan. 3 at home opposite Valparaiso.

“That’s step number one. We break the NLC down into seven rounds, and this was round one. We got it,” Ogle said.

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