WARSAW – The Warsaw boys basketball team needed a bounce-back performance Thursday night to get back into the win column.
Thanks to its offensive balance and board play, the Tigers bounced Fort Wayne South Side for that much-needed victory in posting an 86-77 triumph.
Warsaw, just two nights after a draining 49-47 loss at the buzzer at Triton, shared the ball and spread the scoring wealth to outscore the winless Archers.
Senior Jared Bloom dropped in 20 points and classmate John Swanson netted 19 to lead five players in double figures for the host Tigers. Junior Jordan Stookey scored 13 points, junior Nate Pearl 12 and sophomore Rashaan Jackson 10 for the winners.
Senior guard Eric Hairston tossed in 34 points for the Archers, who were hurt by a 13-of-25 effort from the free throw line. Hairston was unstoppable most of the game as he connected on 12-of-16 shots, including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers.
Warsaw had 24 assists on its 33 made field goals, including a game-high eight from Stookey. The Tigers also out rebounded the athletic Archers 40-28 with Swanson snaring a game-high eight caro
The Tigers shot 33-of-66 from the field by getting open looks from long range and close range all game long.
“We did move the ball well tonight,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “I felt we progressed tonight. We rebounded much better tonight than we did on Tuesday.
“The loss Tuesday was emotionally draining and we had finals Wednesday and today and South was as dangerous an 0-5 team coming in here that you were going to find. We needed to get a win for our psyche.
“I’m a little surprised so far this season that we’ve been as balanced offensively as we have, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked how Stookey played tonight at times with eight assists to three turnovers.”
The contest started out looking like an old-fashioned game of HORSE.
The Archers came out blazing, specifically Hairston. The senior guard drained 17 points in the opening quarter, including making four treys. The Tigers proved up to the task as the hosts led 24-23 after the opening stanza. Pearl came off the bench to hit 3-of-3 from distance in the first period for nine points. The two teams combined to connect on 10 3-pointers in the first quarter.
“We did a good job finding Pearl,” noted Ogle. “Hairston had a heck of a game. We didn’t expect him to shoot like that. They had not shot the ball like that in other games.”
Warsaw closed the opening half with an 11-4 run, sparked by Swanson and Taylor Cone, to lead 42-36 at intermission. Bloom and Pearl each had nine in the opening half as seven different players scored for the Tigers, who shot 15-of-36 in the first 16 minutes.
The Tigers controlled the second half as South got no closer than five points in the third period. Bloom scored seven points and Swanson six in the third frame as Warsaw answered every Archer basket with one of their own. The hosts led 64-56 after the third quarter and opened the fourth with a 6-0 run to take their biggest lead of the contest at 70-56.
Warsaw, which improves to 4-4 on the season, shot lights out at 18-of-30 from the field in the second half. The Tigers, who beat South 44-34 last season, improve to 3-1 at home this campaign.
South, which finished 5-16 last season, drops to 0-6 this year. The Archers, who were only averaging 58.6 points-per-game prior to Thursday night’s contest, are 0-4 on the road this year.
“The biggest area that hurt us tonight was rebounding,” said third-year South coach Mike Novell. “They got too many opportunities. Rebounding and their post play were the difference in the game. But, we did a better job fighting until the end.
“Our leading scorer is out with a knee injury and we had two players late to the bus so they didn’t play the first quarter tonight and we still hung in the game. Hairston played like this all summer. This is what we expect from him. That’s why we were stunned in the first five games that he played like he did. He was only averaging five or six points before tonight.”
Cone played a strong game for the Tigers as the senior had eight points to go with seven rebounds. Jackson was big off the bench with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with six rebounds, while Stookey had a stat-stuffer night with his 13 points, six rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
Deion Williams scored 13 points, Domonique Gleason 11 and Devin Jones 10 for the Archers, who were 10-of-19 from 3-point land.
Warsaw won the junior varsity contest by a 42-36 final. Nick Sands scored 11 points, Cameron Hoskins 10 and Jonny Hollar eight for the Tigers. La’Montae Jackson netted nine points and Nick Thomas eight to lead South.
Warsaw (4-4) plays Kankakee Valley Dec. 28 at Grace College. South (0-6) plays in the Summit Conference Tournament Dec. 26-29.