SYRACUSE — It was hard knowing what was to be expected from the Wawasee boys basketball team in the season opener against Fairfield. The Warriors entered the game with some new faces, a new coach and were coming off a two-win campaign in 2015-16.
With the long list of excuses lined up to justify a season-opening loss to a Falcons team that has trumped the Warriors two of the last three meetings, Wawasee opted for the better storyline, winning. The Warriors took care of business on both ends of the court to earn a 48-39 victory Tuesday evening.
“It’s really a big deal because we had a gameplan and the boys went out an executed that plan,” said Wawasee first-year head coach Jon Everingham. “There’s such a narrow road to bring me and the guys together over the offseason. With what they went through last year with so many losses and then to have a new coach come in, for it all to come together tonight, this is a big win for us. I’m not going to lie.”
That sentiment was shared by Everingham’s players. The expressions and emotion of the players throughout Tuesday night’s game, from both teams, made it clear that this game meant a lot. It was about getting the season started the right way.
Fairfield jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead but Wawasee was able to claw its way back by the end of the first quarter and trail the Falcons 10-9 going into the second. That’s where the Warriors were able to make their move and take control of the contest.
Wawasee scored the first eight points on the second quarter. In fact, Wawasee scored the only points of the second quarter. The Warriors did what they needed to offensively but limited Fairfield to bad possessions in the second and won the quarter 8-0 to lead 17-10 at the half. The Falcons were 0-3 from the floor in the frame while Wawasee was 4-6.
“If you would’ve saw us at practice last Monday, I’m not sure you would’ve been convinced that we would beat any high school team,” Everingham said when asked about the team’s defensive presence in the second quarter. “Literally three days ago, Saturday, we didn’t have one guy that could take a charge. It’s just little things. We focused on learning to take charges. Tonight we go out and took at least two or three. We’ve been preaching continuous improvement and tonight, obviously, was a big step for us.”
Wawasee came out strong in the third quarter but so did Fairfield. The Falcons were able to gain some ground as the final seconds wound down in the third but Cayden Wegener took away that momentum by draining a three before the buzzer. That shot helped Wawasee win the quarter 17-15 and take a 34-25 lead into the fourth. Wegener finished had an odd role on the night by playing two quarter of JV action then starting the varsity game. He would finish the evening nine points.
“I think the biggest performance and the most outstanding player tonight for us, based on things he’s gone through, was Cayden Wegener,” remarked Everingham. “I asked him to play two quarter JV, three varsity today. He’s been one that’s had such a positive attitude. He’s bought into what he’s trying to do. He understands why I’m having him play some JV. He’s really switching roles. Then he goes into the varsity game and hits that big three for us at the end of the third.
“We’ve asked him to reduce the amount of shots he’s taking and then distribute the ball a little more. He’s had every opportunity to have a bad attitude or not buy-in to what we’re trying to do. He’s not done that and tonight it showed.”
Wawasee kept its play strong in the fourth to maintain the lead while the Falcons play catch-up and were not able to get back within striking distance.
Jairus Boyer burst into his junior year by leading Wawasee with 13 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Trevon Coleman showed his scoring ability with several nice moves and ultimately finished with 12 for the Warriors. Tyler Smith added seven while Jacob Hand scored five and Tim Conley tallied two.
Fairfield was led offensively by Luke Stephens who had 18 points. Shandon Miller added 10 for the visitors.
Everingham is the 12th head coach in Wawasee history and becomes the eighth to win his debut game, joining Tom Spear, Bob Heady, Mike Jones, John Wysong, Gary Goshert, Jerry Davis and Phil Mishler.
Wawasee (1-0) will play at No. 18 Angola this Saturday with tip scheduled for 7:30.
Wawasee’s JV rebounded from a 9-0 deficit after the first quarter to defeat Fairfield 41-34. Ryan Edington led all scorers with 20 points. Ryan Geer led Fairfield with 14.