WARSAW — Warsaw welcomed in Columbia City to the Tiger Den Saturday night for an early season battle of storied programs. City kept Warsaw at arms length to claim the rivalry win, 59-49.
Columbia City set the tone in the early seconds of the game after grabbing a five point lead and forcing a timeout from Tiger coach Doug Ogle. After the timeout, Warsaw was able to get on the board but still had no answers for the Columbia City attack as the Eagles hit three shots from beyond the arc. After a quarter of play the Eagles held a 19-12 lead.
The second quarter was much like the first as Columbia City added two more three-pointers as part of a 17-point second quarter effort. Going into the lockerroom the visiting team led 36-25. Seniors Drew Benedict and Derek Hinen led the Eagles in scoring at the half with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
In the third quarter the Tigers finally kept the Eagles scoring attack at bay, holding their opponent to just nine points. Unfortunately Warsaw could only produce seven of its own points and failed to cut into the Eagles lead. Columbia City’s third quarter points all came off of three pointers from who else than Benedict and Hinen. The two seniors were a thorn in Warsaw’s side all night and Ogle took notice.
“The combination of Hinen and Benedict was too good,” Ogle stated. “They were too good for us tonight. We couldn’t control Hinen and Benedict was too open. Our defense on him was not good enough. They are a very good basketball team.”
In the fourth quarter the Tigers were able cut the lead down to nine points but Benedict came through again by hitting an impressive 24-foot three-point shot to give his team a 12-point lead with just under five minutes to play. Benedict finished with 27 points for the second consecutive game.
Warsaw had a trio of players reach double figures in scoring, led by 14 points from Jordan Stookey with Jared Bloom at 13 points and John Swanson 11 points. Stookey added four assists and Taylor Cone chipped in 11 rebounds.
Following the game Ogle would look for some positives but admitted that his team was simply outplayed.
“We were just not good enough tonight. I thought down nine at half we could crawl back in but they continued to hit shots and we just couldn’t get over the hump. We rebounded well, that was a bright spot but their offense was way better than our defense tonight.”
Columbia City’s head coach Chris Benedict was all smiles after the game but still found some areas for his team to improve on.
“I thought our guys did a good job defending them and making them take tough shots but I was really concerned rebounding wise,” the City coach stated. “They outrebounded us 24-17 and they are a strong rebounding team and physical in the paint but I thought we could’ve limited their second chance opportunities and maybe extended our lead.”
The Eagles head man was especially happy with his team’s consistency, “I was really pleased with the start and really pleased with how we sustained it all the way through. A lot of times when you get a lead you get lazy and let teams get back into it. I was really pleased with how our guys stayed with it and kept it in that eight to ten range.”
Columbia City improves to 2-0 on the young season and will return home to face Northfield next Friday night. The Tigers fall to 1-1 and will look to bounce back when they travel to Allen County to face off against Homestead Friday night. Warsaw dropped the matchup with Homestead last season in a thrilling 67-65 game in the Tiger Den. The Tigers and Spartans are set to tip off at approximately 7:45 p.m.
In junior varsity action the Eagles JV squad eclipsed Warsaw with a 39-26 victory. Columbia City was led by Justin Bachelder who tallied 17 points. Warsaw’s Jake Mangas led all scorers with 21 points.