MIDDLEBURY – It was a tale of two halves for the Wawasee boys basketball team on Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Warriors, neither tale had a storybook ending. Wawasee fell behind early and could not score enough late as the Warriors fell to the Northern Lakes Conference’s top team, Northridge, 65-42 at Northridge High School.
Before the game, Wawasee head coach Steve Wiktorowski preached that getting a solid start on offense would be a key factor for his team if it wanted to run with the Raiders. Both teams struggled to get any offense going during the first few minutes but eventually Northridge found its rhythm and would lead 16-7 after the first quarter.
Wawasee scored another seven points in the second quarter, an output that was simply not good enough to compete with the Raider scoring leader, Nate Ritchie. Ritchie had 10 points in the first half and would end the night leading all scorers with 21. Ritchie’s first half production coupled with Wawasee’s 11 turnovers put the Warriors in a 36-14 hole at the half.
“We were not doing the things we had practiced,” said Wiktorowski. “We had zero carryover from practice to the game in the first half and it showed. When we have a bad stretch it’s almost like falling off a cliff, we just go straight down and have a tough time getting back up.”
The carryover that Wiktorowski and his staff was looking for finally showed up in the third quarter. Wawasee did a complete 180 from its first half performance. The Warriors came out aggressive and confident and even outscored the powerful Raiders 19-11 in the quarter. There were no subs in for Northridge, the foot was still on the gas. The Warriors just finally showed up.
Wawasee continued to play tough but Ritchie became too much to handle and Pete Smith added a few shots from behind the arc to prevent Wawasee from truly threatening the Raiders undefeated NLC record. Stori Bright scored six points in the second half for Wawasee to finish with 10 on the night. Alex Clark led the Warriors with 15 points. Gage Reinhard added eight points to the effort and Aaron Voirol supplied another six.
After being outscored by 22 in the first half, Wawasee played even-up with the Raiders in the second, 28-28. Whatever made the difference is something that Wiktorowski and the Warriors hope they can figure out before their game against Goshen.
“To be honest, I don’t know what went wrong to start this game,” said Wiktorowski. “I don’t know if we came in intimidated or what happened. In that second half we moved the ball better and got into good shooting positions. We made a few baskets and really set the tempo.
“Our defense communicated better and had better coverage and we had some nice fast breaks off of our rebounding. We just needed to find that in the first half. Now we need it to carry over into practice and ultimately into our game against Goshen.”
Wawasee (3-11, 0-5) has now lost 19 consecutive NLC games. The Warriors will host Goshen on Thursday night for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Northridge improves to 14-2 and continues to be the lone unbeaten in NLC play at a league-leading 6-0. The Raiders host NLC foe Concord Thursday night.