Photo by Gary Nieter/Times-Union
Warsaw’s 6’11 senior Graydon Brath uses his height to score a basket during the first quarter over Wawasee's Grant Brooks.
Photo by Gary Nieter/Times-Union Warsaw’s 6’11 senior Graydon Brath uses his height to score a basket during the first quarter over Wawasee's Grant Brooks.
SYRACUSE – The Wawasee Warriors basketball team opened their clash with Warsaw Tigers at the Hardwood Teepee employing a zone defense figuring they could allow Warsaw (22-80, 27.5% beyond the arc) to launch the long ball all they wanted last night. However, Warsaw exploited that strategy hitting 13 of 18 (72.2%) of their treys and the guests won the Northern Lakes Conference opener 63-48.

The three-point shooting did not look as hurried and greedy as they had in games past, though.

Warsaw Tiger head coach said, “I thought we had the best shot selection we’ve had in our first seven games tonight because we were able to make the extra pass. We want our guys to shoot with confidence, but our guys have to put the time in to understand what shots we’re trying to get, and they need to be able to make them when they get the opportunity.”

Tiger senior swingman Brock Poe returned to action for the first time this season after quarantine and led the evening’s long-range assault nailing five of six treys. Sophomore guard Jaxon Gould added a 4-6 showing beyond the arc, followed by Seniors Bishop Walters (2/2), Ben Bergen (1/2) and Caleb Sands (1/1).

Wawasee’s Ethan Carey, not to be outdone, put on a clinic for his host squad nailing 4 of 8 triples.

The victors, however, made it rain early and often, Poe drained four straight three-point shots, and Gould nailed two more threes in turn triggering an 18-3 run turning a 13-8 lead early in the frame into a 31-11 advantage. The Tigers headed to the locker room up 33-16 halftime lead.

The short-handed Warriors entered the second half trying to close the lead to 12 points, but the Tigers employed their most disciplined pressure defense of the early season, and the hosts were gassed as Warsaw built their lead up to 20 points, 53033 with 6:12 remaining in the final stanza before the smoke settled upon the 63-48 final score.

The Warriors, quarantined for 2 ½ weeks and without starters Kam Salazar and Keaton Dukes, put up a good fight as far as coach Jon Everingham was concerned.

The Wawasee mentor said, “I was proud of our guys. I think we fought tonight. We had a good game plan in place. We were gonna roll the dice on having them beat us from outside. Tonight, they did. That’s when you pat ‘em on the back and say good game and move on to the next one. I think if they missed a few early there’s a tightness and pressure that comes along, maybe the game would have been a little closer.”

Moore, whose Tigers scored 22 points off their intra-county rivals’ turnovers commented on the Tiger defensive effort.

He said, “Our goal in this game was to pressure. Some of the past few games we have pressured but we’ve fouled. We spent a lot of time this week just talking about being able to pressure the ball you don’t have to turn them over; you don’t have to steal it you just have to be there to wear them down. I thought the consistent pressure kind of pushed (Wawasee) out of attack areas. We were able to get turnovers and convert them (to points) fortunately.”

Wawasee was led by Carey’s 16 points. Mason Passell and Collin Roberson added 8 tallies apiece. Adam Beer and jack Stover (5 points apiece), Grant Brooks (3 points), Jay Finlinson (2 points) and Caden Welty rounded out the Warrior scoring effort. Possell also grabbed six rebounds for the hosts.

Warsaw was led by Gould (16 points), Poe (15 points), Judah Simfukwe (9 points), Walters (6 points) Sands (5 points), Jackson Dawson and Bergen (4 points each). Graydon Brath and Russ Winchester each had two points.

The JV Tigers also picked up a conference-opening win 48-34 led by Drew Heckaman’s 17 points and 7 rebounds (including two dunks) and Kyle Dawson’s 14 points and 8 caroms. Jay Finlinson (11 points) and Mark Wiggs (7 points) led Wawasee’s offensive effort.

The Tigers (4-3, 1-0) play the Portage Indians in tonight’s Champions of Character ten-team bonanza featuring several top-notch Indiana high school programs in the MOCC at Grace College.