WARSAW – The Warsaw boys basketball team definitely made things a lot more interesting than coach Doug Ogle would have liked Friday night.
The Tigers, however, also definitely extended their winning streak in the end.
Warsaw, despite a tough night from the free throw line, topped Triton 40-33.
Senior Jordan Stookey turned in a strong all-around performance with a team-high 13 points as the host Tigers won their sixth straight game to improve to 7-2.
Senior Tanner Shepherd led Triton, which drops to 4-3, with a game-high 15 points.
Warsaw, coming off two wins last Friday to claim the championship of the Hamilton Heights Tournament, won despite hitting just 6-19 from the line. The Tigers missed seven straight in the final quarter to keep the contest close until the final horn.
“I really don’t know how to explain that,” said Ogle of his team’s ice-cold effort from the line. “We are shooting 73 percent on the season and were 38-47 in our two games last weekend. If we make free throws, it’s much more comfortable tonight. But, we got on a roll where everyone was missing them. I think it can be a mental snowball that gets bigger and bigger once you start missing them.”
Warsaw, which lost 49-47 at Triton last year, led 33-31 early in the fourth period. The Tigers got some breathing room on back-to-back buckets by Stookey and Jake Mangas to make it 37-31. The hosts then misfired on the front end of three straight 1-and-1 free throw chances and followed with four misses on double bonus opportunities. Warsaw went 5-15 from the line in the final quarter.
Triton, meanwhile, hurt itself with critical turnovers late in the game. The Trojans also went over four minutes without a point as the Tigers misfired from the line. Triton, ranked No. 7 in Class 1-A, ended the night with 16 turnovers to just nine for Warsaw. The Trojans have dropped their last two after a 56-54 loss at New Prairie last Saturday in their NSC opener.
“We just have to make better decisions,” said Triton coach Jason Groves. “We just had way too many turnovers again tonight. We’re our own worst enemy right now with mental mistakes and making wrong decisions. Part of that may be from our lack of experience. We’re still trying to find our identity and who we are.
“I give a lot of credit to Warsaw. They play really good defense. Our kids are giving the effort. I don’t question that at all. We’re just shooting ourselves in the foot right now. That’s what is so frustrating. We played good enough defense to win tonight and were in a position to win this game.”
The Trojans, who were state runner-up a year ago, led 11-8 after the opening period thanks to an 8-0 run. Triton led 17-15 at intermission as Shepherd had 11 points. The Tigers took a 28-27 lead after three periods of play as Rashaan Jackson netted six points in the third quarter.
“Shepherd kept them in it in the first half and we shot poorly,” noted Ogle. “We had only practiced once this week (on Tuesday) and it showed tonight.
“I thought our defense on Shepherd was better in the second half. At half, we talked about doing a better job of guarding him. We put Jordan (Stookey) on him. Jordan had one of his better games in a while tonight. He did a nice job for us.”
Stookey finished with eight rebounds and eight assists, both team highs, for Warsaw. He did go 0-7 from the line.
Junior Tim Swanson provided the Tigers with a lift with seven key points off the bench, including drilling a pair of 3-pointers. Senior Jackson and junior Mangas each scored six points, senior Nate Pearl five, sophomore Paul Marandet two and senior Moses Marandet one.
Shepherd, by far the most experienced player back from last season’s 20-6 squad, had a game-high nine rebounds for the Trojans. He also had seven turnovers.
Junior Joey Corder had six points and eight rebounds for the Trojans. Senior Darren Harrell scored five points, sophomore Jordan Anderson and juniors Skyler Reichert three each and Austin Sellers one.
Triton finished just 5-7 from the line in the loss.
Warsaw won the junior varsity contest 42-22. Lucas Cone netted 10 points and Evan Schmidt eight to pace the Tigers to the victory. Landon Kauffman led Triton with 11 points.
Warsaw shot 15-34 from the field, including making 4-13 from distance, in the win. Triton was just 12-36 from the field, including 7-23 in the second half, and went 4-14 from 3-point range.
Warsaw returns to Northern Lakes Conference action next Friday night at Northridge. Triton plays at Elkhart Christian Thursday evening.