Junior Kaydence Shepherd of Wawasee gets held up while driving to the basket during Friday night's home game against Concord. Photos by Gary Nieter
Junior Kaydence Shepherd of Wawasee gets held up while driving to the basket during Friday night's home game against Concord. Photos by Gary Nieter
It took five tries for last year’s Wawasee girls basketball team to win its first Northern Lakes Conference game of the season. The Warriors began this year’s conference campaign on a high note by defeating Concord 48-36 to improve to 4-2 and start NLC play at 1-0.

In front of a packed student section ready to cheer the Warriors towards victory, the home team got off to a lightning quick start. Wawasee started the game with suffocating defense, allowing the Minutemen just one shot per possession with some tough rebounding to go along with it. After securing the ball, all five Warriors zipped down the court to create some instant offense. Wawasee would rinse and repeat in order to jump out to a 6-0 lead.

Junior Kaydence Shepherd left her mark on the first quarter in a big way. The guard racked up three steals in the opening period by jumping in to double team ball handlers and cause some loose balls. With the Warrior defense constricting Concord at every turn, the Minutemen were only able to score four points in the first quarter on one field goal, going scoreless over the first four minutes.

“The girls are really buying in to what we can do defensively,” Wawasee head coach Derek Gilreath said. “They know that even if we’re not scoring but can play at the defensive level we know we’re capable of, they can maintain leads and get back into ball games.”

Wawasee’s biggest issue in the first half was its foul trouble. The first Warrior to get into trouble was Olivia Horn, who picked up two early in the first quarter. Horn was replaced by sharpshooter Brooklynn Gibson, who knocked down a triple immediately after subbing in.

Leading 11-4 going into the second, both Wawasee and their opposition began the quarter with a serious scoring drought. Just one total point went onto the scoreboard over the first three and a half minutes. As the quarter went on, Concord started to increase the pressure, driving to the hoop on almost every possession. The strategy would cause even further foul trouble for Wawasee, and the Minutemen would convert their free throws to shrink the deficit. The home team was able to knock down a couple of shots at the end of the period, but the team’s insistence on shooting difficult jumpers from three-point range allowed for the visitors to climb back. The two sides headed into the locker room with just two points of separation.

The Warriors would distance themselves from the visitors at the beginning of the third. Wawasee quickly got off to a 7-0 start and kept the pressure on to extend their lead to double digits for the first time in the contest. Sophomore point guard Lucy Wilkinson picked up all six of her points in the quarter by nailing two big three pointers. The Warriors used the third quarter to flip the script on Concord, getting the Minutemen into foul trouble early and often and taking advantage of the results.

“We were a little more intentional about getting the ball inside and not falling in love with the outside shot like we did in the first half,” Gilreath said. “We were going to take them if they were there but we were going to get more high percentage shots inside.”

Leading by eleven going into the final period, the Warriors would score the first four points of the quarter to extend the lead even further. Molly Beer would score the latter two of the four, getting her to double figures on the night. Beer finished her evening with 12. Mackenzie Hackleman also reached double digits in the point column, scoring 10. Eight of Wawasee’s nine players scored at least one point.

“It’s a testament to how unselfish the girls are. Nobody’s concerned about their points, it’s about how many we score as a team,” Gilreath said. “We love to move the ball around and find open shots, if you’re open, you better be taking it.”

The Minutemen used a late flurry to give the game some drama, but were never able to get close enough to worry Wawasee too much. The Warriors have a quick turnaround, traveling to Bourbon Saturday to take on Triton at the Trojan Trench.

“Addyson Viers is going to be a tough matchup with us not having a lot of size, we’re looking at some different things defensively,” Gilreath said. “It’s hard for us to play our style of ball on back-to-back days because we play so hard. We’ve got to be focused.”