SYRACUSE – A trait in any young team is inconsistent play. The Wawasee Warriors basketball team is definitely a young team and has more than its fair share of growing pains this season. Thankfully for the Warriors, some of that pain can be healed right on their home court this week.
For the second year in a row the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 21 will run through Syracuse. With Hoosier Hysteria happening right on its home court, being the host team could be the consistency that Wawasee has been desperately searching for all season.
The Warriors have a roster that bolsters just two seniors that and relies heavily on the sophomore and junior classes. The young roster is rebuilding, but has been steadily showing signs of life.
Steve Wiktorowski stepped in as the new head coach in mid-July and spent the the next few months working with his staff and the team to implement a new offensive scheme and make the team more defense-oriented.
“We’ve been through some great experiences this year,” said Wiktorowski. “We’ve adjusted to getting games to play at our tempo and while we’ve struggled to gets wins at times, we’ve played good defense. If we can figure out how to rebound just a little better and get a few more shots to fall, I really think we can pay with anyone in our sectional.”
The defensive focus of the Warriors was noticed early on and has been a strong suit for the team, but offensive consistency has been anything but abundant.
Wawasee’s defense is giving up an average of just under 54 points per game, putting the Warriors right in the middle of the pack with the rest of their sectional pool. But the offensive production, which has stayed around 46 points per game, has been an issue for Wawasee all season. Only one potential sectional opponent (Whitko) has had less offensive production than the Warriors.
If shots are going to start falling for Wawasee then other scorers will have to emerge outside of the Warriors top two options in Gage Reinhard and Alex Clark. Both juniors have shown that they are capable of scoring 20 or more points on any given night, but the supporting cast has been much less dynamic on the offensive end.
Players like Sam Clark, Jake Hutchinson and Stori Bright have been solid defensively in 2013-14, but will have to find their offensive games come sectional to help boost their team’s chances of advancing.
While the team enters the tournament just 4-16 overall, Wiktorowski said that does not effect him of his team in the least bit.
“I think our shot is as good as anybody’s,” Wiktorowski stated. “NorthWood is the class of the sectional, I don’t think anyone can argue with that. But we showed back in January that we can compete with them. You can throw out the records at sectional time. That’s an old saying but I think it rings true and I hope it is even more true for us playing on our home floor.”
The chance for redemption will happen swiftly as Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley (16-3) will rematch in game two of the Wawasee Sectional on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. The regular season finale went to Valley, 58-46, Friday night, but won’t matter when the two tangle Wednesday. The winner will get to face either No. 5 NorthWood (18-2) or Lakeland (7-13) in the semis Friday night.
“The combination of Tanner Andrews and Chainey Zolman are going to be key for us to stop,” Wiktorowski said of the rematch with Valley. Andrews and Zolman combined for 35 points Friday night against the Warriors. “Andrews can really hurt you inside with his physical play, and they have great shooters on the outside. We’ll have to figure out a way to defend their options. Otherwise it could be a long night.”