MIDDLEBURY – Wawasee girls basketball coach Matt Carpenter is not into “moral” victories.
The first-year Warrior mentor though found a true “morale” booster from his team’s performance Tuesday night despite a tough loss.
The Warriors put up quite the effort in a 50-41 loss to host and undefeated Northridge in the Northern Lakes Conference lid lifter for both teams.
Brooke McKinley proved to be the difference in this one. The Northridge junior guard poured in a game-high 25 points as the Raiders improved to 11-0.
Senior Hannah Haines had 11 points and junior Hannah Marie-Lamle 10 to pace the Warriors, who fall to 3-7 after their fourth straight loss.
The Raiders, who finished 21-5 overall a year ago and won the NLC title at 7-0, checked in at No. 15 statewide in this week’s coaches poll. Coach Doug Springer’s team, which has now beaten Wawasee eight straight times dating back to the 2008-09 season, returned three starters from that squad.
The Warriors gave the hosts all they wanted for a full 32 minutes, something that left Carpenter feeling very good.
“Outstanding,” said Carpenter about the effort of his team. “Our goal tonight was to play 32 minutes with intensity and to execute and that’s what we got.
“Our girls are going to walk out of here tonight with their heads held high. We don’t celebrate moral victories, but this is a huge step forward for us. Wer’e making progress and if we continue to have the effort we had tonight we’re going to be fine.”
Northridge led 14-11 after the opening period and took a 22-16 lead into the locker room at halftime. McKinley hit a huge 3-pointer just before the final buzzer to give the Raiders a six-point edge at the break.
It was too much McKinley and too many turnovers that hurt the Warriors in the pivotal third quarter. McKinley scored eight points in the key stanza, sparking an 8-0 run by the Raiders that turned a slim 24-20 lead into a 32-20 advantage. The Warriors had seven of their 20 turnovers in the third quarter.
“That’s the best team, by far, that we have seen all year and they took advantage of some mistakes we made,” said Carpenter of the Raiders. “Give them credit. We lost McKinley a couple of times on threes and we were slow closing gaps defensively on her drives to the basket.
“I thought that in the third quarter we let up a little mentally and they made us pay. We had some turnovers in stretches there and that’s been our Achilles heel. I thought that we executed better in the first half and followed our gameplan and the scouting report.”
Wawasee fought tooth and nail to the very end. The Warriors pulled within 34-28 on a trey by Aubrey Schmeltz to open the final frame. McKinley though had all the answers on this night as she scored nine points in the final frame, including hitting seven free throws, to seal the win.
Schmeltz scored eight points and Kabrea Rostochak and Aubrey Kuhn each had five for the Warriors. Casey Schroeder added two points.
Senior Kelsey Brickner had 13 points and senior Madi Miller and sophomore Morgan Litwiller five each for the Raiders.
Northridge won the junior varsity game 42-9 to hand Wawasee its first loss in eight games. Sara Pritchard scored four points and Morgan Adkins three to lead Wawasee. Sierra Miller had nine points and Jenna Bradberry and Ashley Beckler each had eight to pace the Raiders.
Wawasee hosts Goshen in NLC action Friday night. Northridge entertains league foe Concord Saturday afternoon.