WARSAW – She hasn’t roared in a while, but Lady Tiger point guard Mariah Rivera made her presence known in Warsaw’s 53-42 girls basketball win over Columbia City Tuesday night.
Rivera, who came into the game having scored no more than eight points in any game and only 10 points total in her last six contests, poured in 12 points in a near flawless night. Rivera was 4-4 from the floor, including a pair of bombs from deep, 2-3 from the free throw line (her only miss on an and-one in the fourth quarter) and turned the ball over just once in over 25 minutes on the court while dishing two assists.
The senior guard’s presence was especially evident in the fourth quarter, where she opened the final eight minutes by drawing a jump ball, then scoring on Warsaw’s next possession to give the Tigers a 44-30 lead. That cushion was the comfort point Warsaw needed as City had pulled within 10 just moments earlier.
Eight of Rivera’s points came in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Mariah did a nice job for us tonight,” said Warsaw head coach Michelle Harter. “Looking for her open shot when she had it. Down the stretch when we needed a basket, she could have pulled up for a little jumper, but she hesitated and had the lane open up and went in for a layup and got fouled. That’s just good basketball. Her taking what the defense is giving her and looking to see what’s opening up. That’s nice to see Mariah get back into the swing of things.”
Warsaw had all the makings of rampaging Tuesday’s US 30 rivalry into a cake walk, taking a commanding 33-15 lead at the half. Warsaw drilled five three-pointers in the first half, three of them coming from Rivera, Dayton Groninger and Madi Graham in the second quarter as Warsaw was hitting shots at will. Warsaw shot 57 percent in the first half (13-23), but found City wouldn’t go away.
In a series that has had the last five games all won by the home team, City nearly caught Warsaw in the third quarter. The Eagles opened on an 8-3 run, and Chelsea Pettigrew later hit a shot to pull City within 10 at 40-30. But Warsaw answered right before the buzzer when Kaylee Patton took a nice pass and hit the bunny at the buzzer. Combined with Rivera’s shot to open the fourth, Warsaw took the four-point swing and maintained for its tenth win of the season.
“Columbia City is always one of those games that it seems like it’s always a grind to the very end to come out and walk away with the win,” Harter said.
Groninger scored 12 of her 13 points in the first half, but added nine rebounds and two assists. Graham had 10 points and a pair of steals and Page Desenberg added eight points and three boards.
Pettigrew led all scorers with 15 points and chipped in eight boards and three steals for City, which falls to 3-8 overall. Holly Martinez added 10 points and four rebounds.
Warsaw’s JV needed overtime, and won in exciting fashion, 40-38. Warsaw came up with a steal and found Miah Holsclaw for a layup with six seconds left in regulation. With the score tied at 38 in OT, Maddie Ryman cut to the hoop and got the shot to go with just under six seconds remaining for the game winner. Ryman led Warsaw with 19 points while Grace Schrader paced City with 13 points.
Warsaw (10-1) will prepare for a unique experience this Saturday as the team will take on Northern Lakes Conference rival Wawasee at Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, where portions of the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. No word on if Steve Hollar will be present in original apparel dressed as Rade Butcher.
“It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of things you get to do, go down and play in a historic gym,” Harter said of the Knightstown trip. “It was one of those things for the six seniors to get the opportunity. It just came along. It will be a lot of fun for us. We’ll go down to the Hall of Fame, go out to eat as a team and just have some good quality team time in bonding and then get ready to step on the floor and play against a much-improved Wawasee team.”
The Warsaw-Wawasee game on Saturday, which was originally slated to be played in the Tiger Den, will be one of five games in the Hoosier Gym. It will be a varsity only contest as the junior varsity game is now scheduled for Monday at 6:15 p.m. in the Tiger Den.