MISHAWAKA – The Wawasee girls basketball team overcame a cold start in their season opener Thursday night.
Unfortunately, in the end, the Warriors could not overcome a frigid finish on the offensive end.
Host Mishawaka Marian ended the contest on an 11-0 run to pull away to a 43-32 victory over Wawasee in the opener for both teams.
Wawasee, which went scoreless the first 3:37 of the game, was held without a point the final 3:25 as the Knights prevailed.
The Warriors rushed some shots down the stretch, had a couple of costly turnovers and put Marian on the free throw line.
Those key ingredients added up to a loss in the debut of new Wawasee coach Matt Carpenter.
“A lack of execution down the stretch hurt us,” said Carpenter, who replaced longtime Wawasee coach Kem Zolman. “That put us in a tough spot defensively and then we put them on the line. I thought that we ran out of energy late too.
“No one likes the result we got tonight and we shouldn’t. But, it’s what did we learn from this game. We’ve got 2-3 days now to get ready for our next game at home versus Fairfield on Tuesday. Our focus now is to play better on Tuesday night.
Wawasee, which graduated two seniors from last year’s 8-15 squad, could not buy a bucket early on. The Knights, who were also 8-15 a year ago, took off to a 9-0 lead to open the game. The Warriors broke the ice with 4:23 to play in the opening period on a bucket by Aubrey Schmeltz. Marian led 10-4 after the first stanza.
The Warriors, who edged Marian 46-44 last season, got a big second quarter effort from Schmeltz. The 6-1 senior netted eight of her team-high 14 points in the frame. She hit an inside hoop just before the halftime horn to tie the game at 19-19 at intermission.
“As frustrating as tonight was, we did see some good things,” said Carpenter, who spent the last 10 seasons as an assistant coach for the Goshen girls basketball program. “Aubrey (Schmeltz) attacked the basket and Aubrey (point guard Aubrey Kuhn) handled their pressure.”
Wawasee took its first lead of the night at 22-19 as senior Hannah Haines drained a trey to open the final half. Marian, sparked by junior guard Meghan Urbanski, rallied to lead 30-28 at the end of the third period. Urbanski, who was the top scorer for the Knights last season at 10 points-per-game, scored six of her game-high 20 points in the third quarter.
The Warriors, who averaged just 41 points-per-game last season, made just two buckets in the final stanza. A Schmeltz score with 3:25 to play tied the contest at 32-32. A jumper by senior guard Libby Priller put the Knights in the lead for good at 34-32. The hosts hit five free throws down the stretch, including three by sophomore Kiya Roby.
“It’s about how we play together in our new style,” said Carpenter. “How we piece it together is the next step for us. We want to play aggressive, smart basketball and take quality shots.
“We did not finish shots tonight. We rushed some things where we were off balance and did not have our feet set. We just have to finish shots and I’m confident that we can do that.”
Schmeltz, who was the second-leading scorer for Wawasee last season, was the lone Warrior in double figures with her 14 points. Junior Hannah-Marie Lamle scored six and juniors Kabrea Rostochak and Aubrey Kuhn each had four. Haines added three points and senior Seaquinn Bright one.
Urbanski tallied 20 points, including hitting a pair of threes for the Knights. Christina Himelick, a 6-0 freshman, had nine points and Priller had six as Marian won in the debut of coach Tyler Dendy.
Wawasee rolled to a 67-13 win in the junior varsity contest. The Warriors led 23-0 to open the game. Kiersten Beckner led the winners with 15 points. Caitlin Wortinger scored 12 points and Sara Pritchard nine.
Wawasee hosts Fairfield and Marian plays at Plymouth both on Tuesday night.