SYRACUSE – When Wawasee walked out of Fairfield’s gym last November, the Warriors were on the wrong end of a 78-57 decision. What a difference a year makes.
Nearly a year to the day, the Warriors redeemed themselves on their home court against a tough Falcon squad that returned much of its roster. Wawasee excelled on both ends of the court to capture a 56-51 victory Tuesday night over Fairfield.
Wawasee came out with an energy to start the game that was reminiscent of the fantastic sectional game it played against Tippecanoe Valley last March. The Warriors were seemingly making every shot and standing firm on defense. Once the horn sounded to end the first period, the home team held a 19-10 lead.
The momentum would swing back in Fairfield’s favor following the second quarter in which the Falcons would outscore Wawasee 10-2. While Wawasee held a 21-20 lead at the half, the energy from the team and the home crowd had clearly changed.
Something must have clicked for the Warriors during the break because the team once again played with a high intensity and offensive prowess in the third quarter. Much of that energy came from senior Gage Reinhard.
Reinhard led all scorers with 23 points, scoring 14 of those in the second half. He hit four shots from behind the arc, recorded two steals, six boards and had two huge blocks early in the game.
While Reinhard had several big games for Wawasee last season, something just looked better about the senior Tuesday night. He was like spandex, no matter what Fairfield tried to do to wear him out, he just kept returning to form, killing the Falcons from deep.
“He just seems to be playing with less pressure this year,” said Wawasee head coach Steve Wiktorowski. “He played with a lot of confidence and knocked down some big shots for us. I really think Alex (Clark) did a nice job of not forcing things and realizing that Gage was on tonight and did a good job of getting him the ball.”
As Wiktorowski implied, Tuesday’s victory was about more than one player. Clark had 14 points of his own while Sam Clark had a great night with 10 points and five assists. Stori Bright led the team with eight rebounds.
It seemed that different players stepped up across the board for Wawasee when things got tight. From an early three by Jayce Boatwright, to timely steals by Jake Hutchinson and Aaron Voirol. The team only committed five turnovers total, while forcing 12 on defense.
Voirol’s steal could be listed as the unofficial “game winner” as the senior made an athletic and head’s up snag of a Fairfield pass in the game’s final minute with the Warriors clinging to a three-point lead. Fittingly, it was Reinhard that hit the final two free throws for Wawasee with three second left to clinch the win for the Warriors.
The passion Wawasee had on Tuesday is not something that Wiktorowski expects to see fade away from his team.
“They’re hungry,” Wiktorowski remarked about his squad. “This senior class has taken a beating the last three years. A lot of them have been playing varsity ball since at least their sophomore year, if not their freshman year. They feel it’s their turn and they’re out to prove that.”
Fairfield was led by Joe Line’s 21 points. Line had several huge threes to keep his team alive in the second half, but the Falcon senior could not carry his team all night despite his efforts.
Wawasee (1-0) will travel to Angola this Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. tip. The Hornets stole a 46-44 victory from Wawasee in Syracuse last November.
In the junior varsity contest Wawasee was also victorious. The Warriors outscored Fairfield 21-11 in the second half to clinch a 44-32 win. Aaron Beer led all scorers with 18 points for Wawasee.