SYRACUSE – It’s not déjà vu, it’s just growing pains.
For the second game in a row the Wawasee basketball team felt the pain of a close loss. This time the Warriors were downed by the Squires of Manchester 45-44 on Friday night.
The game started much differently than it ended. Manchester came out in the first quarter with a hot hand while Wawasee could not buy a basket. After the first quarter went by and the Warriors had hit just two field goals, Wawasee found itself on the wrong end of a 20-9 deficit.
The Squires slowed down their production in the second quarter but Wawasee still have trouble finding the bottom of the net. Both teams would add 10 in the second frame and head to the locker room with the score still in Manchester’s favor, 30-19.
Shooting just 4-17 from the floor, the Warriors just did not appear to have the fire power or skill to close the gap against a confident Manchester squad, at least not in the first half.
Wawasee came out as a different team in the third quarter and opened the half on a 10-0. The Warriors would end up outscoring the Squires 12-4 in the quarter but still trailed by three heading into the final frame, 34-31.
The improved results were a product of improved choices by Wawasee, according to its head coach Steve Wiktorowski.
“We shot better because we made better decisions,” Wiktorowski stated. “We also got tougher. We let them push us around and push us off the block. We did not do a good job of getting open for our first pass to start our offense.
“So, at half, we challenged out guys. We told them that we cannot let another team take us out of things as much as Manchester was doing it on both ends of the floor. We played too much on our heels on both ends of the floor in the first half. We played with more aggression in the second half and I think we naturally shoot better when we play that way.”
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Wawasee shot exactly 20 percent better from the floor in the second half over its first half performance. Manchester could not get into a rhythm in the fourth quarter either, but the Squires hit shots when they needed to most, always keeping Wawasee one or two points behind. Wawasee, however, missed two crucial free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter, despite shooting an impressive 13-16 at the charity stripe for the game.
“That’s two different ways of looking at the rim,” stated Wiktorowski. “You have one team out there shooting free throws with two wins under its belt and the other team is trying make sure it doesn’t lose its third.”
Manchester and head coach Eric Thompson did what they needed to on Friday to get the win and move to 3-0, and that is good enough for them.
“This Wawasee team is a lot better than its 0-3 record,” began Thompson. “Kids from this area never give up and we knew that, that’s why we had to keep plugging away and at least stay one point ahead of them for as long as we could. When they started to close the gap, we just told the guys to stick with our plan. Just stick to what got them here.”
The plan worked for Thompson and the Squires who are now on the opposite end of the spectrum from Wawasee. The Warriors (0-3) travel to Ligonier tonight to face West Noble (2-0). Wiktorowski expects a good performance from his team despite the quick turn-around.
“West Noble is going to be well rested, they did not play tonight,” said Wiktorowski. “But, I think out kids will be just fine. They are ready to get back out there and ready to go.”
Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Wawasee won the junior varsity game over Manchester 33-25.