Senior Caden Welty of Wawasee works along the baseline for a shot during Friday night's sectional game against Lakeland.
Senior Caden Welty of Wawasee works along the baseline for a shot during Friday night's sectional game against Lakeland.
SYRACUSE – With the buzz of their home fans behind them, a fired up Wawasee Warriors side took down Lakeland 53-32 in the Class 3A Sectional 21 semifinal Friday night. The Warriors will be back on their home court Saturday, winners of four of their last five, to compete for the sectional championship.

From the opening tip, the energy surrounding the Warriors was emphasized with the team’s play on the court. Wawasee exploded for five points in the first minute of play, with freshman Myles Everingham treating the crowd to a flex after opening up scoring with a three-ball. The Warriors would cool off a tad offensively, scoring five points in the next seven minutes.

“We’re very comfortable on our home floor, even when things made us uncomfortable for a little bit we remained poised,” Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham said.  

But defensively, Wawasee put on a clinic all evening long. In the two sides’ first matchup of the year in late January, the Lakers put up 63 points, enough to get a victory. It was a different story in the rematch, with Lakeland scoring just three points in the first quarter and 12 in the first half.

“Our defense was so consistent tonight, and it has been the last couple of games,” Everingham said. “We contested a lot of shots, made it really difficult for them, and then obviously finished possessions on the glass.”

The offense picked back up in the second quarter, with Wawasee turning defense into easy buckets. Transition layups and threes were available for any player that wanted one, and more times than not were converted into points.

Everingham was unconscious from deep, sinking three threes in the first half. He’d finish with a game-high 16. The Warriors also owned the glass, with senior Caden Welty leading the charge with six first half rebounds. He’d finish with eight to go along with his seven points.

With Wawasee already up big going into the third, the game slowed down tremendously as Lakeland racked up fouls. Laker players desperately looking to give their side a spark started reaching more, and going up a little harder for blocks. The results didn’t change much as the Warriors kept converting on the offensive end while playing suffocating defense.

As Everingham owned the first half, senior Keaton Dukes took over in the second. Despite not making a three in the game, the Wawasee sharpshooter took what the defense gave him and converted a majority of his opportunities at the rim. He’d finish with 15 points and seven boards.

“It all starts with him. The job he did on both ends tonight was tremendous,” Everingham said. “Everybody looks at his scoring but what he’s done defensively has been remarkable. Having our guards get some rebounds tonight, that’s big.”

Even with the second and third units playing a majority of the final period for both sides, the deafening energy of the Hardwood Teepee never died down as Wawasee put the finishing touches on its wire-to-wire victory. The Warriors seems to be peaking at the right time, and despite a rocky journey up to this point, will have a chance to extend said journey Saturday night against Class 3A No. 3 NorthWood for a spot in the regionals next week.

“We got humbled a little bit at the beginning of the season, but for us to stay together as a team, being committed to getting better, it goes a long way during the rough spots. I’m glad it’s working out, because now we’ve got a chance to win a sectional championship against a very good team,” Everingham said.