Photo by Gary Nieter/Times-Union
Warsaw senior Ben Bergen tries to maintain ball control while driving to the basket during the second quarter of their game against Leo.
Photo by Gary Nieter/Times-Union Warsaw senior Ben Bergen tries to maintain ball control while driving to the basket during the second quarter of their game against Leo.
The Warsaw Tigers hosted the Leo Lions in a battle of big cats (mascots at least) Wednesday night in the Tiger Den. The guests used two hot hands, Blake Davison in the first half with 18 of his game high 24 points, and Xavier Middleton in the second half (all 17 of his points) to tag-team the Tigers 69-55.

Leo’s one-two punch plus Warsaw’s 18 turnovers resulting in 21 Lion points did in the Tigers, who used an 11-2 run in the first quarter to close the frame with a 15-14 lead. The Tigers had trouble with telegraphed passes and passes without zing, and the Lions used a good transition game complimented by their ability to play with length and move the ball very well.

The result was a 55-40 advantage by the guests in the following three stanzas, leading to the 69-55 final score in a contest where Leo lead by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers, 5-5 overall, 1-0 in conference play, had some takeaways from the contest. 6’5” sophomore post player, Russ Winchester, notched a career high 12 points including a 2 for 4 night beyond the arc. He had a stronger inside game than he had in past frays with three of five boards coming off the offensive glass. Warsaw out rebounded Leo 25-21 excluding dead ball rebounds, including a 10-6 advantage against a Lion squad who plays with length.

Davison and Middleton were joined by big man DJ Allen with 12 points to lead the Lion scoring effort.

Leo hit 13 of 22 (59%) second half field goals including a 4 for 7 (57%) effort beyond the arc. The Lions also used 24 attempts at the charity stripe to connect on 15 of those freebies for 63%.

Jaxon Gould led Tiger scoring with 21 points, along with Winchester’s career-high 12 tallies, followed by Judah Simfukwe (10 points), Jackson Dawson (6 points), Bishop Waters (3 points), Ben Bergen (2 points), and Kyle Dawson (1 point).

Bergen continues to play strong on the boards, wiping the glass clean with 5 rebounds, two on the offensive glass.

Ball movement was trouble for Warsaw, with only 9 assists on 21 made baskets. Leo, on the other hand, had 15 dishes from 24 made buckets.  

Despite the 5-5 record including two consecutive losses, Warsaw has used their non-conference schedule to prepare them to win the Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) title.

Warsaw head coach Matt Moore said, “Playing Leo will prepare us better than some other teams we would have played to put us in the position to go beat Northridge. That’s the mission.”

Moore continued, “The teams who beat us are 28-1 so far. We’re being tested in a way that I hope we can make some adjustments as we get closer to February to prepare ourselves for the tournament. Records are for fans, and for moms and dads. We’re preparing for conference and the tournament.”

The JV Tigers downed the JV Lions 53-40 with very efficient play by two varsity role players, Kyle Dawson (14 points in 16 minutes), and Drew Heckaman (11 points in nearly 11 minutes). Winchester tasked with putting in some JV minutes added 7 points to go along with his varsity career high effort.

The Tigers will continue to practice through the New Year holiday and conduct their team retreat before they host the defending NLC champs, the Northridge Raiders Friday January 8th. They’ll clash following the 6:15 p.m. JV tip-off.