SYRACUSE – It was a night to be defensive at the Hardwood Teepee. But a few offensive moments made the difference as Wawasee outlasted Whitko, 54-47, in double overtime Saturday night in boys buckets.
Whitko looked like it had Wawasee sunk twice, but almost miraculous scenarios brought the Warriors up from the mat. The Wildcats had Wawasee down 36-30 after a steal and River West free throw. But a Bennett Hoffert three, followed by a Trevon Coleman steal on the inbounds found its way to Jacob Hand, who hit the hoop and the harm to knot the game at 36.
West’s bucket gave Whitko a 42-39 lead in the first overtime, only for Cameron Schlabach to drill a three from the corner to force another four minutes. Key in the first overtime was the fifth foul drawn on Whitko bigman Spencer Sroufe, who exited the game with eight points and eight rebounds, but left a huge vacancy in the lane.
Wawasee scored the first five points in the second overtime, with Schlabach hitting another three and Tyler Smith sending the home crowd into a frenzy with a layup and the foul. Wawasee led 47-42, the first moment of the overtime sessions where separation was felt.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do, and they are a really high-powered offense,” stated Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “I really felt like reducing some possessions in trying to keep it in the 30s was going to be to our advantage. I just didn’t know if we could do that.
“(Nate) Walpole is really good and River West is a really good shooter. I just didn’t know if it was even possible to keep the score lower. It’s a credit to our guys. Our defensive effort was outstanding.”
West hit a three to keep Whitko close at 49-47, and after Jairus Boyer hit a pair of free throws, a no-call on Walpole’s layup attempt was the final straw for Wildcats head coach Eli Henson, who was given a ‘T’ for his displeasure of more than just the impending snow coming through the region.
“We had plenty of times to close that game out in the fourth quarter and then in the first overtime. It should have never gotten to the point that it did,” said a calmer Henson. “You know, hat’s off to them. They kept fighting back and grinding away at us. I thought our effort and our toughness was there all night. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get stops we needed when we had the lead.”
Coleman, who battled Sroufe tooth and nail in the paint all night, finished with a team-high 16 points and three rebounds. Hand tallied 11 points and four rebounds and Schlabach added nine points and five rebounds.
Smith chipped in seven points and eight rebounds.
Walpole, who came into the game averaging 27 points per game, finished with 24 but was held to just one assist after averaging over seven per contest in Whitko’s first five games. West had 13 points, five under his average, and was held without a rebound or assist.
“I felt we grew a lot tonight”, said Henson, whose club is 4-2 with a key Three Rivers Conference test at Tippecanoe Valley Friday night. “I saw the toughness and the fire tonight. That’s what I love to see. I know we didn’t win, but this wasn’t a conference game, this didn’t end our season. We’re alright. I felt like we still got better tonight. It just didn’t show up on the scoreboard.”
Wawasee moves to 4-1 overall and now has Warsaw on the radar in a Northern Lakes Conference showdown Friday night at the Teepee.
“It’s going to be interesting, the pace of play is going to be interesting,” Everingham said of the upcoming matchup with the Tigers. “They like a game in the 30s, and so do we. I know coach Ogle well, he’s a great coach. I like where we are at right now. Our mindset right now is that we can seriously compete with people. It’s at our place and we’re really going to look forward to the matchup.”
In the JV contest, Aaron Evans netted 13 points to lead Wawasee to a 46-32 win. Austin Miller added eight points to the Warriors’ cause while Cade Bechtold had seven points to pace the Wildcats.