SYRACUSE – “In overtime games it’s just a matter of which way the ball falls,”
Wawasee head coach Phil Mishler’s post-game statement summed up Saturday night’s game perfectly.
The Warriors were hoping to snap a five game losing streak when they welcomed in Elkhart Central to the Hardwood Tee Pee on Saturday for the two program’s first meeting since 1997. Unfortunately for Mishler and company, the Blue Blazers did just enough to pull out a 59-56 triple-overtime victory.
The Blazers and Warriors were neck and neck all night after playing to a 16-16 draw in the first quarter. The game would see six different lead changes and eight ties. Centrals would be able to take a small lead into the locker room at half time but could not quite shake the determined home squad.
In the third quarter first-year Blazer head coach Troy Noble ordered his team to go into a ultra-conservative offense. The game plan was very simple, senior point guard Terrell Street brought the ball up the court and stood at the point until Wawasee forced a move. The result was a Central possession that lasted for three minutes and six seconds. Despite the slow-paced offense in the second half, Street would still manage to score 16 points. The sudden change of pace from the visitors in turn changed the pace of the game and led to only 11 total points being scored in the third quarter. After three, the Blazers were holding on to a 35-30 advantage.
The Blazers managed to control the majority of the the fourth quarter and looked to be on their way to their first victory since November 24. With time running out for Wawasee, sophomore Alex Clark stepped up big for his team by draining three shots from long distance as well as dishing out an assist for another three ball to teammate Chase Myers. The sudden flurry of three-pointers from Wawasee tied the game at 46-46 and forced overtime. Clark finished the night with a game-high 30 points while Myers added eight of his own.
Central took the tip off in the first overtime and went back to stalling the game with another long possession. This time the Blazers held the ball for over two minutes of the four minute overtime period. Street was able to come through for the Blazers late in the period by hitting a layup to give his team a 48-46 advantage, putting the pressure on Wawasee to convert. Clark was able to drive down the court and put up a shot that was seemingly blocked by Central’s John Stahl, thankfully for Wawasee Stahl was called for goal-tending on the play. The foul tied the game at 48 with just over five seconds to play and ultimately forced the second overtime period.
The second overtime period all but mimicked the first as both teams would again run a game-stalling style of offense and only score two points each. In the third overtime period Wawasee was unable to get shots to fall and was forced to foul Central. The Blazers went 4-6 from the line in the third overtime frame which was just enough to outlast the Warriors and cling to the 59-56 victory.
Following the game the Blazer’s Noble was relieved for his team to snap its eight game losing streak and talked about how they needed to continue to improve, “We’re proud of our kids. Last year they won five games and were only in eight of them. This year we have been in all 11 and have not lost by more than six.”
To avoid further struggles, the first year Blazer coach said they just need to take care of the small things. “We are trying to get the program to compete and fight, and we’ve done that. The winning will take care of itself. We can control the winning with free throw shooting and turnovers, and tonight we did just that,” stated the coach.
As for Wawasee, the team has now dropped six straight but improvement has been seen from the young team in its past two games against both Elkhart schools. Coach Mishler was proud of how his team responded in Saturday’s game after a tough conference loss to Elkhart Memorial on Friday night.
“We gave ourselves a great opportunity to win tonight and the boys did everything that was asked of them tonight. The most impressive part of this is that it was all done in one day’s time. For our freshman to execute a game plan in less than a day’s time is impressive, and they did it to a ‘T’ and helped put us in a position to win,” Mishler stated.
When asked what his team could have done to help pull out the victory, Mishler replied simply, “We just needed to hit a few more shots at the end.”
After going 10 of 18 from long distance and shooting 52 percent from the field overall, the Warriors (3-8, 0-3) will look to stay hot as they welcome in Northern Lakes Conference rival Plymouth. The Pilgrims beat LaPorte Saturday night to improve to 10-2 and are currently 1-2 in NLC play. Tip-off is set for 7:45 p.m. in Syracuse.
In the junior varsity game, the Blazers JV squad topped Wawasee 46-33. Sam Clark led the Warriors with seven points.