ARCADIA – It would be hard to find one exact word to describe the performance that the Warsaw boys basketball team put on in the Hamilton Heights Holiday Tournament on Friday. But one word that would certainly work is “confident.”
The Tigers looked sloppy at times in their morning game against Bloomington North, but managed to hold off a late surge and punch a ticket to take on the host team, Hamilton Heights. The task was anything but easy, but regardless of the situation that was thrown at the Tigers, they handled it with confidence and that made all the difference in a 57-54 victory over the host Huskies in the title game.
The game certainly did not start out in championship fashion for Warsaw as the Tigers failed to get a field goal until the 4:23 mark in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Hamilton Heights seemed to be making everything. But after the Tigers got their first field goal out of the way, the tides turned in favor of Warsaw. By the 3:09 mark Warsaw had taken its first lead of the game, 11-10, and at the end of the quarter Warsaw led 17-12.
Warsaw kept its hot hand going in the second quarter and would take a 30-25 lead into the locker room. Things were looking good for the Tigers until the second half started. In game one, the third quarter was Warsaw’s best friend, in game two it was just the opposite.
Warsaw scored just six points in the quarter and trailed 39-36 going into the final eight minutes. But in the face of adversity, the Tigers did not back down. Warsaw dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring Hamilton Heights 21-15 in the final frame.
Overcoming the early deficit and having the ability to stay focused after falling behind in the second half were what led Warsaw to victory, according to head coach Doug Ogle.
“I like our poise and our leadership,” started Ogle. “We got down early, we didn’t panic. We lost our lead in the third quarter and they (Hamilton Heights) had a lot of momentum, we didn’t panic. More than anything, our team is gaining confidence. You can feel our guys becoming more confident, it’s palpable.”
No player seem to have more confidence on the hardwood than Warsaw’s Rashaan Jackson. The junior had an intensity that went simply unmatched in Friday night’s game. Jackson’s energy was noticeable but so was his precision. The junior kept his team in the mix early on as he was a perfect 6-6 from the line in the first quarter and would finish 12-13 in the game. Jackson’s name is one that the fans at Hamilton Heights would soon like to forget.
In addition to his stellar performance at the line, Jackson made himself a constant presence on defense, causing disruption for the Husky offense. He led the Tigers with two steals and led all scorers with 20 points.
The Tiger junior’s performance in the title tilt helped him get put on the all-tournament team and earned him the distinction as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The humble MVP was happy for the win and knows it is just one more step in this season’s journey.
“We lost to Hamilton Heights this summer, pretty badly,” started Jackson. “So, we came out here and decided we were going to look inside and attack the basket and really just remain patient on offense. We were able to do those things and that was big.
“I think winning this tournament is really important because we lost two games earlier this season that we probably should’ve won. Honestly, I think we should be 8-0. Winning this tournament should really help our confidence.”
Other Tigers joining Jackson on the all-tourney team were senior Jordan Stookey and junior Jake Mangas. Stookey tallied 10 points in the championship and 19 on the day. Mangas was the hero earlier on, scoring 17 points in the morning game. He added eight points in the championship game.
Warsaw (6-2) has now won five-straight games and will look to keep the hot streak going as it welcomes in Triton on Friday night. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
Bloomington North topped Indianapolis Shortridge 68-49 in the consolation game.
Rashaan Jackson (MVP) – Warsaw
Grant Weatherford – Hamilton Heights
Jordan Stookey – Warsaw
Jake Mangas – Warsaw
Hunter Crist – Hamilton Heights
Malik Laffoon – Bloomington North
Isreal White – Indianapolis Shortridge