Warsaw junior Luke Yeager is unfazed by his defender as he goes up for a shot during the first quarter of Warsaw’s 60-49 win over Carroll Friday night. Photos by Gary Nieter
Warsaw junior Luke Yeager is unfazed by his defender as he goes up for a shot during the first quarter of Warsaw’s 60-49 win over Carroll Friday night. Photos by Gary Nieter
Two quality 4A opponents met at the Tiger Den Friday night with the same goal in mind: finish their respective regular seasons with a win. The team that accomplished that goal and eventually sent fans home happy was the Warsaw Tigers, which used a big fourth quarter to pull away from the visiting Carroll Chargers to head into sectional play on a high note with a 60-49 win.

“Carroll is as talented as any team we’ve seen this season. They have some dudes,” Warsaw head coach Matt Moore said after the game. “We were locked in, which after a tough loss on Tuesday is exactly what you want to see.”

The final game of the regular season seemed exactly that. Both sides played patient, detail-focused basketball throughout the game. Neither team gave away many possessions, nor did they commit many unforced errors. The visitors showcased this intensity by jumping out to a hot start, making their first three shots to start the contest.

It didn’t take long for Warsaw to answer. The Tigers got a big boost on the offensive end from sophomore Luke Bricker. Bricker had the green night all night long, putting up a three-pointer whenever he had the space to do so. His readiness paid off early, as the sharpshooter knocked down two of his first three attempts from deep to keep Warsaw in it. He’d hit four threes in the game and finished with 18 points.

“If you look at the last four weeks for Luke, there has been such a growth in his maturity and his poise,” Moore said. “He puts so much pressure on the other team with his ability and it creates a lot of offense for the guys around him.”

After the initial spurt from Carroll, the Tigers were able to wake up on defense and got the results they were looking for. The Chargers would go scoreless for the next six minutes, allowing Warsaw to take its first lead of the game. Some good shot-making from both Jaxson Gould and Luke Yeager helped the Tigers jump out to a six-point lead. Despite a solid finish to the first by the visitors, Moore’s team was able to finish the quarter strong and hold a four-point lead going into the second.

“You want to bottle that effort up and serve it before the next game every time. It’s a testament to our guys and their belief in what they can accomplish. They do it every day in practice and it shows up on game night,” Moore remarked.

The status quo did not change much in the following eight minutes. Warsaw held their lead for the entirety of the quarter, but were not able to do much to extend it. The home side went through a bit of a drought to begin the second, but were aided by another nice night on the offensive glass from sophomore Trai Davis, who had four offensive rebounds in the quarter alone. More times than not, Davis’ boards would lead to an easy follow-up attempt, allowing the Tigers to stay in front. After 16 minutes, the Tigers remained in front by the same total of four points.

Warsaw’s defense continued to suffocate the Chargers as the second half began. It didn’t matter where on the court Carroll was shooting from, a Tiger defender was in position to contest the attempt. Some nice outside shooting from Bricker as well as Brandt Martin allowed the home team to begin to extend their lead up to nine, their largest of the game. However, the successful shooting would not last long, opening the door for the visitors to start creeping back. Being given the opportunity, the Chargers would not let it go to waste. A strong finish to the third saw Carroll shrink Warsaw’s lead to just one point as the two sides geared up for the final eight minutes of their regular seasons.

The fourth would begin with the visitors taking their first lead since the first quarter on their opening possession. It would last just seconds though, as Martin would convert a three-point play on the other end to put the Tigers back on top. Once getting back in front, Warsaw never trailed again. After a relatively quiet start to his night, Gould exploded in the fourth quarter, scoring six straight points for his team in the final minutes with the game hanging in the balance. When he wasn’t scoring in the fourth, he was helping add to the lead with his passing, picking up two key assists to Davis. After trailing in the opening seconds of the fourth, Warsaw went up by double-digits with less than two minutes remaining.

“You want to win your last game in your home gym,” Moore said with a smile on his face. “Jaxson has shouldered so much for us all season long and tonight was just another example of that.”

Gould was subbed out with seconds remaining and received a large ovation in his final appearance at the Tiger Den. His big fourth quarter put him second on the team in scoring behind Bricker with 15 points. Martin and Yeager also reached double figures, finishing with 10 points each. Davis rounded out the scoring with seven.  

Warsaw ends its regular season with a 14-9 record. The Tigers will begin their sectional conquest Tuesday night in the second game of the evening against Northridge at North Side Gym in Elkhart.

“Northridge is going to zone us, they’ve had some success with that in recent weeks so we’re going to have to be ready for it,” Moore said. “They’re a team that can make threes which is going to put some pressure on us but we’re ready to get after it.”