Wawasee senior Keaton Dukes pulls up for a jumper over NorthWood's Brock Bontrager during Saturday night's sectional championship game.
Wawasee senior Keaton Dukes pulls up for a jumper over NorthWood's Brock Bontrager during Saturday night's sectional championship game.
SYRACUSE – The Wawasee Warriors held tough, but two big second-half runs were enough for the Class 3A No. 3 NorthWood Panthers to hang on and win a sectional championship 40-23 on the Warriors home court Saturday night.

Trailing by only two at the halftime break, the Warriors were victims of an 8-0 run encompassing the entire third quarter, and an 11-0 run to finish off the game. The 23 points scored by Wawasee were the lowest output by the team this season.

The Warriors had their chances. The first quarter was a defensive slugfest that didn’t see Wawasee score its first bucket until four minutes in. But the defense played by the Warriors, which has been a big part of the team winning four of its last five going into this one, didn’t budge either. The team held the explosive Panther side to just two points for a majority of the first period.

Despite the strong defense, Wawasee had troubles of its own putting the ball in the basket. With a 6-5 score line favoring NorthWood going into the second, a quick Warrior spurt would give the team its brief and only lead of the game. Action was briefly halted halfway through the period when Wawasee senior Caden Welty was fouled hard while attempting a fast break layup. Welty remained on the ground for several minutes and had his knee attended to. He would leave the game but return in the second half. He’d finish with two points.

The Warriors had a little better luck finding the bottom of the net in the second, thanks in large part to senior standout Keaton Dukes. Dukes would score six points in the period, keeping Wawasee in striking distance. But the play of the quarter belonged to NorthWood’s Ian Raasch, who blocked a Dukes jumper and took the rebound the length of the court for an and-one bucket. With the momentum on the Panthers side, they’d take a 18-16 lead into halftime.

The third quarter marked the beginning of the end for the Warriors. Missed shots, risky passes and sloppy play snowballed for the team as NorthWood stayed fundamentally strong and kept the pressure on. The run was sprung into action by NorthWood junior Cade Brenner, who would pick the pocket of a Warrior and proceed to drain a three on the other end, With the Hardwood Teepee rocking in favor of the white and black, all the Warriors could do was hold on. Unable to score any points in the period, Wawasee did its best to stay in the game, only allowing eight points to the surging Panthers.

The Warriors did their best to get back into the game in the fourth, with junior Collin Roberson getting a quick bucket to start the quarter off. Roberson had six points, and led Wawasee in rebounding with six boards. Dukes would rattle off five straight points to get the deficit down to six, but that’s as close as the Warriors would get. NorthWood would score the final eleven points in the contest.

With about a minute and a half left, Dukes and Welty were subbed off to standing ovations from the crowd. Dukes would finish with eleven points. The Warriors finish their season with a 9-15 record.