PLYMOUTH – There is a famous speech in the film Glengarry Glen Ross that emphasizes the importance of closing a deal. Alec Baldwin’s character forcefully stresses to “Always be closing.”
On Thursday night the Wawasee Warrior basketball team put itself in prime position to close its Northern Lakes Conference season with a win against Plymouth. However, while Wawasee spent most of the game preparing to close, it was the Pilgrims that snuck in in the closing minutes to hand the Warriors a 52-42 loss.
The final score is deceiving of the competitiveness of the game as a whole. Thursday night’s contest was tightly contested from the tip to the final buzzer.
An uneventful first quarter from both teams led to an exciting second frame.
Wawasee controlled the tempo and momentum for the majority of the quarter, hitting two big threes, but a senior-heavy Plymouth team capitalized on the few mistakes that Wawasee did make and clung to a 24-22 lead at the break.
Wawasee’s shooting success took a slight dip in the second half (39-percent) while Plymouth got production from two unlikely players to help boost the team to a victory.
Reis Yoder came into Thursday’s contest averaging just two point per game, he finished the game with 12. 10 points above his average in a game that Plymouth won by 10. Josh Anders, averaging seven points a game, led Plymouth with 13 points.
Mack Mercer, a 6’9″ forward with the ability to hurt teams with his perimeter shooting, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with just 10 points on the night. But Mercer dished out four assists and pulled down 12 boards. Mercer also had a pair of blocks on two Wawasee three-point attempts.
Wawasee’s offensive attack looked as good as it has since the Warriors win at Rochester on February 15. The Warriors hit seven three-pointers and were 7-11 from the line. Alex Clark led Wawasee with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Gage Reinhard added 10 points and Jeffrey Moore had nine points on three three-pointers for the Warriors.
In several games this season the key to a Warrior loss could be found on the stat sheet. Turnovers, points off turnovers and second-chance points have all been categories that Wawasee has struggled to compete in at times this season. That just wasn’t the case against Plymouth.
Wawasee had 11 turnovers, a number that the team would certainly like to lower, but Plymouth had 10 turnovers of its own. Both teams scored nine points of of the turnovers and neither team cashed in on second-chance points.
Every stat line showed that Wawasee played even-up with Plymouth for the entire game. The difference just appeared to be Plymouth’s ability to close in crunch time. Wawasee had too many empty possessions in the final three minutes, allowing the Pilgrims to build a small lead. The four-point advantage suddenly became seven and finally 10 by the time the clock ran out.
Despite the outcome on the scoreboard, the Warriors showed that they had bounced back from a bad loss last week in Fort Wayne and were more confident on the offensive side of the ball. With sectionals coming up next week Wawasee head coach Steve Wiktorowski is happy to see the improvement with the team’s offense.
“I think we’ve had a general upward trend recently,” said Wiktorowski. “We did a nice job of continuing that trend tonight by doing a nice job of putting last week behind us.
“Our offense keeps getting better and better, we just had a couple of stretches tonight where we didn’t get it done, mainly when they (Plymouth) switched to a zone. But we did a nice job keeping the game at our tempo. There were a few times Plymouth could’ve put together a nice stretch but we came down and hit some nice shots to keep momentum going.”
The Warriors are hoping to find that momentum again and sustain it on Friday night when they host Tippecanoe Valley, the team they will face on Wednesday night in the first round of sectionals.
“I think tomorrow might be kind of a vanilla game for both teams,” Wiktorowski said. “You want to get enough out of it to get a game plan for Wednesday without showing too much. But, we’re going out to win.
“We have two seniors that have been so great this year for us. They have bought in to what we’re trying to do and have been great with our underclassmen. Our guys want to get a win for those seniors and send them out right tomorrow.”
Seniors Kody Carpenter and Chase Meyers will be recognized in front of the home crowd before tomorrow’s varsity contest.
Wawasee (4-15, 0-7) will tip against the Vikings (15-3) at 7:30 p.m. Plymouth (10-10, 2-5) will take on Mishawaka, also at 7:30.
In the junior varsity contest it was the Warriors JV that was able to close out the Pilgrims and win, 22-21. Cam Eveland led the way for Plymouth with 10 points while Stephon Miller led Wawasee with eight. The Wawasee JV is now 10-9 in 2013-14.[weaver_youtube zC8AxFRFG7k rel=0]