SYRACUSE — It’s impossible for a team to win a game in the first half of play. It is, however, entirely possible for a team to lose a game in that same period of time.
That was the case Friday night when the Warsaw Tigers traveled to Syracuse to take on its bitter rivals, the Wawasee Warriors. The Tigers would walk away with bragging rights for the sixth straight year by a score of 90-70 in the Northern Lakes Conference boys basketball opener for both clubs.
From tip-off to the final buzzer, the night belonged to Warsaw. The visiting squad started the game on an 11-0 run and in turn set the pace of the game. Warsaw found multiple ways to break the constant Wawasee press as well as disrupt the offense of the Warriors, holding their rivals to just seven first quarter points.
In a post game interview Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle talked about his team’s hot start in Friday’s game.
“We had not really gotten off to that good of a start in a game yet, maybe against Rochester, but still definitely against their press,” Ogle stated. “I thought we handled the ball well and ended up with a lot of easy baskets.”
Wawasee would not get its first basket until after the half way mark in the first quarter when sophomore Gage Reinhard hit a three-point jumper to get his team on the board. Reinhard would finish with nine points on the night.
The catalyst for Warsaw in the first half was senior John Swanson. Swanson dropped 10 points on the Warriors in the first half while also grabbing six boards. The senior would finish his night tied with the most points scored in the game, racking up a career-high 24. Swanson netted 14 points in the fourth quarter.
The other Tiger to show up big on the court and stat sheet was senior Jared Bloom. Also dropping 24 points on the Warriors, Bloom had just eight coming in the first half. The Tigers would go into the locker room with a commanding 41-18 lead. Wawasee shot just 4-of-24 from 3-point range in the opening half.
The second half performance from Warsaw was very similar to its first half. The Tigers continued to break the press and get easy points to maintain their double-digit lead. The story from the second half focused more on the Warriors though.
After shooting a dismal 18 percent from the field in the first half, the Warriors turned it on in the second half shooting just over 45 percent. The hosts hit 10-of-25 from long distance in the final half to finish 14-of-49 from beyond the arc in the contest.
Warrior head coach Phil Mishler talked about his team’s second half performance after the game.
“We didn’t start like we finished,” Mishler said. “I think if we would’ve started like we finished, it would’ve been different. We shot a lot better in the second half, but still ended up at 29 percent for the game from behind the arc.”
Leading the Warriors second half change was sophomore Alex Clark, who went three of five from long distance and six of six from the charity strike after half time to give him 24 points on the night. Wawasee would actually outscore he Tigers 52-49 in the second half, but it was too little, too late for the home team.
Following the game Warsaw‘s Ogle pointed out some faults his team had but was still happy with the win in a big game.
“I’m happy for our guys for this win,” Ogle stated. “We had a good week of practice. There were some spots in the second half where they (Wawasee) got rolling a little bit. But I told the guys at half that they would have to shoot better than 4-25 from three. And Wawasee came out and made eight or so in the second half so they did shoot a lot better. But still, it’s a good way to start out in conference round one.”
As for Mishler, he focused on the positives from his team’s performance.
“I think as our guys get older and they start to understand the game that they can get the momentum from each other but they also have to know that it doesn’t take just that,” Mishler said. “This is just something we haven’t experienced yet. This is the first time we have started out cold and I think it’s a good lesson. The best part about it is that they responded in the second half.”
Both teams played shorthanded Friday night. Wawasee standout Jake Thompson is still sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Warsaw was without starter Jordan Stookey, who was serving a one-game suspension.
Both coaches and their teams will move on to regional rivalries on Tuesday night. Warsaw (3-3, 1-0) will travel to Bourbon to face the 4-3 Triton Trojans. The Tigers will look to continue their two game win streak against the host Trojans. Wawasee (3-3, 0-1) will travel to Columbia City to face off with the Eagles (6-0) who hold bragging rights after their 73-64 victory in Syracuse last season. The Warsaw-Triton game is set to start at 7:30 p.m. in Bourbon while the Wawasee-Columbia City game is set for 7:45 p.m. in Columbia City.
The winning attitude for Warsaw got started in the junior varsity match as the Tigers JV beat the Warriors 46-30. David Rocha led the Warriors with eight points while the Tigers Nick Sands led all scorers with 11 points.