HUNTINGTON - The Warsaw Tigers traveled to beautiful Huntington Arena starting the evening with an aerial attack of seven three-point shots in the first quarter to take a 23-6 lead over the Huntington North Vikings. The hosts, however, used the rest of the game to gnaw at the Tiger lead by beating their guests at the free throw line, hitting 26 of 29 second free throws, and handing Warsaw a 54-45 loss. It was the second defeat in two consecutive nights on the road for the Tigers, who fall to 2-2.

The 26 second-half Viking free throw attempts were not testimony to officials doing the home team’s bidding. Warsaw head coach Matt Moore did not grouse about officiating either.

He said, “They beat us on the dribble, and we gotta force some rotations. Instead, we’re jumping, trying to block a shot when we should be in position.”

The Tigers entered the fray 6-31 outside the arc in their previous three games, but they shocked the crowd hitting seven of ten trey attempts in the first 6 ½ minutes. Sophomore guard Jaxon Gould connected on four threes plus an inside bucket for 14 first quarter points. Luke Adamiec added two three-pointers of his own along with Judah Simfukwe’s first period score beyond the arc.

The Tigers held a very clear height advantage but entered the second quarter continuing to go for the long ball. The results were immediately as bad as they were good in the previous period. Warsaw hit 1-11 from the field, the lone bucket a 12-foot baseline jumper by 6’11” Grayden Brath. The quarter’s shooting woes included a 0-7 effort beyond the arc. Gould added two free throws giving the guests only four points for the period.

The Vikings suffered second stanza offensive woes of their own (a six-minute schneid), however they reversed their fortunes with ten straight points in the final two minutes including a three-point buzzer beater to close out the half, and narrowed the Tigers lead to 27-16 at halftime.

Huntington North adjusted its offensive attack in the third stanza going right after the Tigers, driving the land and drawings fouls. The home team’s reward was the opportunity to sink numerous uncontested shots at the line instead.

And sink ‘em they did!

The Vikings were 10-10 from the charity stripe for the period adding one two-point field goal to outscore Warsaw 12-9. The quarter included another period-ending home squad run of six straight points narrowing Warsaw’s lead to 36-28.

The Tigers, not to be outdone, were impressive at the line nailing 6-6 in the third frame. Gould’s four free throws, and Simfukwe’s two freebies went along with Gould’s three-point shot for the period’s output. Unfortunately, this was the only trey the orange and black would hit in the second half, altogether a 1-19 stretch of futility beyond the three-point line in the second half.

Huntington North continued its previous quarter-ending streak on the back of Dominic Cardwell. The 6’2” junior, only one of two Vikings taller than 6-feet, scored six straight points to draw his squad within two, 36-34. 5’10” guard Zach Hubbartt took over from there, stealing a telegraphed Tiger pass on his way to a lay-up with a foul, sinking the free throw to take the lead 37-36 in a 66 second run leading off  the final period. Cardwell followed up with another bucket to push the host’s lead 39-36, a 17-0 run between the two frames.

Moore commented on the unwelcome turnaround saying, “We want to play free enough but there is an understanding that has to come with that, in time and score, to be able to make adjustments as the game ebbs and flows. When you get the lead, you don’t need to swing for the fences anymore. You need to work the ball, you need to get better possessions, and you can’t foul!”

Cardwell scored eight fourth quarter points, but the highlight of the quarter was Hubbartt’s two buckets and 11-11 free throw performance, 15 final period points altogether.

Warsaw tied the game at 39 and again at 43 before Huntington North hit ten more free throws and a single basket to seal their victory, evening their record to 1-1.

The most remarkable stat of the evening’s game aside from the Vikes’ 26 second half free throws you ask? Only nine players scored between the two teams.

Huntington North was paced by Hubbartt (21 points), Cardwell (15 points) and Sam Thompson (10 points), and Will Hotchkiss (4 points). The Vikes hit 13-30 (43%) form the field including 1 of 2 treys and shot 27-30 (90%) from the line.

Gould, in his first varsity start, led all scorers with 28 points while fellow Tigers Adamiec (8 points, 5 boards), Simfukwe (7 points), and Brath (2 points) rounded out the scoring. Russ Winchester added 5 caroms. Warsaw hit 12-44 from the field (27%), and 8-29 beyond the arc (28%), but fired an impressive 13-15 (87%) from the line.

The JV team suffered a narrow loss 36-35. They move to 2-2 for the season. Kyle Dawson scored 11 points, and Drew Heckaman added 9 tallies.

Warsaw hosts Lake Central Friday night, then travels to another Duneland Athletic Conference foe, Crown Point, Saturday night. Tiger Den admission remains restricted through the remainder of December.

Lady Tigers top Fort Wayne Snider 53-45

Junior 6’2 center Abby Sanner led Warsaw past Fort Wayne Snider with 14 points and 9 rebounds.

She was followed in scoring by senior point guard Kensie Ryman with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Junior guard Kacilyn Krebs added 10 points and 4 assists.

Audrey Grimm, Kendall Wayne and Bailie Stephens rounded out the scoring with 8, 6 and 4 points respectively.

The Lady Tigers shot very well for the contest, going 47% from the field for the game, including an astounding 8 of 10 from the three point line.

Next up for Warsaw is a home game against Fort Wayne Carroll on Wednesday.