SYRACUSE – Two very different boys basketball teams took to the court Saturday night in Syracuse.
Whitko came in after picking up its first win of the season while Wawasee was coming of its second loss.
The Warriors brought a fast-paced, run and gun attack while the Wildcats offered a more steady paced and conservative offense.
In the end, the result was a game full of turnovers and scoring runs that would end in a 63-49 victory for Wawasee.
After turning the ball over seven times in the first quarter, the Wildcats were able to put things together in the second and keep pace with a hot handed Warrior squad. Whitko made forced a few turnovers and were able to pull within seven points around the three minute mark in the second quarter, trailing only 27-20. Feeling the pressure of the surging Wildcat team, the Warriors answered in a fashion that arguably won them the game. Wawasee’s Ryndan Aaron hit back-to-back threes which were followed up with yet another three ball from sophomore Gage Reinhard to give Wawasee a 9-0 run and a 36-20 lead.
The nine-point run would be part of a much larger 15-1 run that carried over into the second half to give the Warriors a 42-21 lead. Aaron would finish the night leading all scorers with 19 points while Reinhard would also get into double digits finishing with 11.
Following the game, first-year Whitko head coach Scott Wessel was asked how the run by Wawasee played into his team’s loss.
“It hits the nail right on the head,” said Wessel. “We had it 27-20 and they hit some big shots and when we came out after halftime we did not do what we talked about and they hit another big three and we were down 21 right away.”
Wessel and the Wildcats put themselves in big hole but thanks to players like senior Stephen Bennett, Whitko stayed in the game. Bennett tallied 15 second half points and helped lead a scoring surge that brought his team within nine of the Warriors early in the fourth quarter. But the Warrior offense proved to be too much for Whitko to keep up with despite Wawasee’s 25 turnovers. Of course, the Warriors forced 19 Wildcat turnovers to help stifle a Whitko comeback as well as going 10-14 from the free throw line to help seal Wawasee’s third win of the young season.
“I think the key was our full court press,” said Wawasee coach Phil Mishler. “We hit threes early and the press was getting us some extra looks. They were turning the ball over early and that’s how we gained the lead.”
When asked about his team allowing Whitko to hang around late in the game coach Mishler gave credit to the Wildcats effort.
“Due to the fact we lost some people to foul trouble and to injury it sort of changed up our situation and rotation and I think that allowed Whitko to feel where our weaknesses were and take advantage,” Mishler said.
Wawasee (3-2) will now get ready for one of their biggest matchups of the year when they play host to arch rival Warsaw next Friday in Syracuse. The Tigers have won the past five games against Wawasee including last season 72-52 win in Warsaw. Tipoff is set for approximately 7:45 p.m. at Wawasee High School.
Coach Wessel and the Wildcats face a similar challenge next week as they too will be facing off against a longtime rival when they travel to play the Vikings of Tippecanoe Valley. When asked about the matchup against coach Bill Patrick and the Vikings, Wessel was fired up for the rivalry, “Coach Patrick has a great program down there and has been around for a long time. We just need to make sure we contain Andrews and Thacker and make sure they stay in front of us. We have four days to prepare, we’ll be ready for them.”
Whitko (1-5) will look to avenge last year’s 59-40 loss in South Whitley when they travel to Mentone Friday night. Tipoff is set for approximately 7:45 p.m.
In junior varsity action, the Warriors JV also prevailed, but in much larger fashion winning 46-16. Wawasee’s Bailey Hershberger led all scorers with 15 points while Whitko’s Tanner Gaff led the Wildcats with six.