WINONA LAKE – Warsaw took very good care of the basketball Friday night.
The Tigers, by placing a high premium on possessions, took care of Kankakee Valley easily too in a non-conference boys basketball contest at Grace College.
Jared Bloom scored 14 points and Jordan Stookey 13 as Warsaw crushed the Kougars 54-32 at the Orthopaedic Capital Center. John Swanson, a 6-5 senior, also turned in a strong performance with nine points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers.
The Tigers, who won for the fourth time in their last five games, had just six turnovers in the easy victory. Warsaw, now 5-4 on the season, had 14 assists in the win.
“Tonight was evidence that we’ve become more solid in our ball handling,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “Tonight was our best game in terms of passing with 14 assists and just six turnovers. That’s good offense and encouraging. When your two best players (Bloom and Stookey) combine for eight assists and just one turnover, that’s a recipe for success.”
Warsaw was patient on both offense and defense against the deliberate style of the Kougars, who came in at 7-4. The hosts used a 9-2 first-quarter run, ignited by Stookey, to take control. Warsaw led 11-4 after the opening period and had the game in hand at halftime with a 31-14 advantage.
Stookey canned all 13 of his points in the opening half, including seven in the first quarter. The junior guard also had five assists. Bloom scored 12 in the first half, including 10 in the second period that featured a pair of treys. The senior guard dished out three assists.
“I was happy with how Jared and Jordan played,” Ogle said. “They played well tonight. They are a powerful combo when they are patient and on balance offensively.”
Warsaw took advantage of several Kougar miscues in the opening half to turn them into points off turnovers with transition baskets. The Tigers had a 20-4 edge in the game on points off turnovers as Valley committed 13 miscues in the contest.
“We’ve tried to become more patient on defense,” noted Ogle. “Points off turnovers were key tonight. In our losses early in the season, we were getting smashed on points off turnovers.”
Warsaw was never challenged in the second half Friday. The Tigers shot 21-of-44 from the field in the win, while the Kougars were just 13-of-36, including only 1-of-13 on 3-point tries.
“I thought that John (Swanson) has responded in the last two games rebounding for us,” said Ogle. “I challenged him. We need to continue to solidify out defense and our rebounding. Our defensive rebounding tonight was not good in the first half.”
Ogle has seen his team bounce back after a 1-3 start. He knows it’s about to get much tougher as the Tigers get into the heart of their Northern Lakes Conference schedule come January.
“I kind of like where we’re at now,” Ogle said. “I like the fact that we’ve improved a lot in the last three weeks. But, we have to continue it.”
Ogle, whose team is 1-0 in NLC play with a win at Wawasee, says the Tigers have to take care of business next Friday night versus league foe Northridge at home.
“We’ll take Saturday off and then have four practices to get ready for Northridge on Friday,” stated Ogle. “That one is a must win for us in terms of the conference.”
Kankakee Valley entered the game winners of four of their last five games versus a soft schedule. The Kougars were averaging just under 50 points-per-game prior to Friday night’s loss.
The quartet of Dustin Ketelaar, Alonte Blackwell, Dylan Caldwelol and Matt Myers each had seven points for the offensively-challenged, but balanced Kougars.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 31-20. Jonny Hollar led the Tigers with eight points, while Nick Sands and Cameron Hoskins each had seven. Darrick Webster led the Kougars with nine points.
Warsaw (5-4) hosts Northridge Friday. Kankakee Valley (7-5) plays at Munster Jan. 5.