SYRACUSE – With a conference title on the line Friday night, the freight train that is the Northridge Raiders girls basketball team picked up speed heading into its game with Wawasee.
The young Lady Warrior squad never knew what hit it by the time the game was over. Winning meant one thing for the visiting Raiders, an outright Northern Lakes Conference title and nothing was going to stop them from getting it. Northridge would cruise to a 46-20 victory over the host Lady Warriors.
Coming into the game with just two wins on the season, Wawasee knew Friday night’s game would be a tough grind. Inexperienced play has been a theme for Wawasee all season as the team has no active seniors. But for the fifth consecutive game the Lady Warriors were shorthanded with two of its regular starters suspended. The enhanced lack of experience led to enhanced turnovers to open the game, putting Wawasee in a deep hole right out of the gate.
Northridge jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter and ended the frame on a 8-0 run to lead 12-2. The run would grow to be 14-0 before Wawasee finally broke it with a basket from Elizabeth Jackson. The Raiders took an overwhelming 22-6 lead into the break. Jackson finished the night as the Lady Warriors leading scorer with seven points, including one three-pointer late in the game. Sophomore Katlyn Kennedy showed some aggression under the hoop and led Wawasee in the first half with four points and two rebounds.
Wawasee’s biggest issue at half was turnovers. Northridge had racked up eight steals to balloon Wawasee’s turnover total to 13 going into the third quarter.
The Lady Warriors were unable to find any offensive rhythm in the second half but refused to admit defeat, fighting right down to the final buzzer. The fight in his young team is what stood out most to Wawasee head coach Kem Zolman.
“This team never gives up,” said Zolman. “I really hope people notice that when they watch us play. This team continues to work hard no matter the score. They are learning and have started to understand that this is a team ad we play as one unit.”
Outside of the relentless can-do attitude that the Lady Warriors had in the third and fourth quarters, the second half did not provide many highlights for Wawasee fans. Kylee Rostochak led Wawasee with five points in the second half and led all Lady Warriors with six rebounds on the night. Northridge was led by Mikaela Zook who had 11 points. Kelly Miller had seven boards for the Raiders.
Though Friday night’s loss was a tough one for Zolman and company, the team has no time to worry about as the team welcomes in Plymouth Saturday night and gets ready for the opening round of sectionals on Wednesday.
“I think we have improved this year, no doubt about it,” Zolman stated. “I could not be more proud of this team. This program is not used to this type of season. It has been difficult but I’m really proud of these kids for staying with it. They really don’t know who they are yet, they haven’t played together long enough to know. The patience for the girls, not us coaches, has been phenomenal. Right now we are anxious to get back out there and continue to grow as a team.”
Wawasee (2-15, 1-5) will tip tomorrow against Plymouth (12-6, 4-2) at the Hardwood Tee Pee at 7:45 p.m.
Wawasee’s postseason will begin Wednesday night at the Panther Pit in Nappanee against NorthWood at approximately 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the game are on sale at the Wawasee Athletic Department.
Northridge won the junior varsity contest 30-15. Nicole Streby led Wawasee with seven points.