SYRACUSE – The words “Columbia City versus Wawasee” in boys basketball has traditionally brought reason to pay attention. Some of the most memorable moments in Wawasee basketball in the past 10 years have included Columbia City on the court.
That wasn’t the case Saturday night, as the Eagles only added to its highlight reel with a 57-28 dismantling of the Warriors at the Hardwood Teepee.
James Ward dunking on the top-ranked City team in 2004. Or Jacob Thompson having a coming-of-age game in the 2010 sectional semis. Or the drama that was the 2011 sectional final. All of that was good fodder for the stands, but there was nothing close to that dramatic in the 2013-14 version as City poured it on early and then got red-hot to open the second half.
City used its physicality to its advantage in the first half, making eight of 11 free throws in pushing out to a 24-9 advantage at one point, then hit 11 of its 15 shot attempts from the floor in the second half. While the Eagles were unconscious from the floor in the third quarter, Wawasee found itself mired in one of its coldest spells of the season, hitting just 12 of 43 shots in the contest and missed 17 three-pointers.
The tones from the two head coaches spoke for themselves.
“We took good shots and were relatively good with the basketball, which is what we want to see from such a young team like we have,” stated Columbia City head coach Chris Benedict, whose club has just one senior and two juniors dressing varsity.
“It’s always easier to play with a lead, and it’s easier to take and make shots when everyone else is scoring. We just strung together some good possessions in the third quarter. We swung the ball inside then back outside, and when we attack the paint like that, we have the shooters on the outside to compliment that very well.”
Wawasee head coach Steve Wiktorowski, who spent over 30 minutes with his club in the lockerroom post game, wished to see more fight in his group.
“I don’t know if it was coming off Christmas break or if Columbia City playing four games since we played one made a difference, but really a lot of it, to me, was our lack of focus,” Wiktorowski said. “The little things. Defensively, I don’t think we played that poorly. But offensively, we didn’t move the ball well. I don’t think we came up with a lot of loose balls and we didn’t get to the foul line. Most of us felt we didn’t give the level of effort we expect ourselves to give.
“We were disappointed in ourselves as a whole that tonight we didn’t come out and compete better.”
Columbia City (5-5) had nine players reach the scorebook, led by 10 points apiece from Brachen Hazen and Justin Bachelder and eight points from Tyler Green. Hazen added seven rebounds and four assists while Mason Coverstone pulled down nine boards.
Wawasee (1-7) had nine points from Alex Clark and Gage Reinhard contributed six points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The Warriors won’t have it any easier in its next challenge, with a very talented and freshly minted NorthWood Tournament champion NorthWood Panthers team primed for a visit to the Teepee. NorthWood knocked off Tippecanoe Valley and Fairfield this weekend to move to 7-0. Wiktorowski, however, isn’t worried about the flashy billboards following the Panther’s bandwagon for next Friday’s tilt.
“Right now I am not at all concerned with NorthWood coming off the performance we had tonight,” Wiktorowski said with a straight face. “We need to do a better job preparing for a game and come in and just compete. Right now, that’s my main focus rather than what team is walking in here. We have to focus on ourselves after a disappointing performance like we had tonight.”
The JV contest was much more competitive, where City had to hang on for a 38-33 victory. Wawasee got the game to one possession in the final minute, but makes at the free throw line from the visitors and misses from the floor by the hosts sealed the deal.
Tyler Green double dipped, leading the JV with 10 points to go with his varsity output, and was a perfect 3-3 from the floor and 2-2 from the line in doing so. Jeffrey Moore hit three treys to lead Wawasee with nine points. Chase Rookstool pulled down five offensive and nine total rebounds to help the Warriors.