SYRACUSE — The Wawasee girls basketball program broke out the brooms Saturday evening against rival NorthWood. The two Northern Lakes Conference schools had a triple-header going at the Hardwood Teepee with games between the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads. The Warriors picked up the win in all three contests including a 52-46 victory in the varsity night cap.
“I think everybody has shown that we’re making progress as a team,” said Wawasee first-year head coach Matt Carpenter following his team’s biggest win to date. “The girls have shown that, they’ve bought in completely. The assistant coaches have done a fantastic job. We’ve just kind of needed that win to get us over the hump, so to say, I think that was tonight.”
A hot start fueled the effort for Wawasee as the team hit a trio of threes in the first quarter to lead 11-7 going into the second. It was a quick run of made deep shots for the Warriors after the two teams went the first 3:30 of the game with no field goals. That scoreless streak was snapped by a three from Wawasee’s Hannah Haines. The senior closed her night with nine points. Aubrey Schmeltz and Aubrey Kuhn had the other threes in the frame.
Wawasee built its lead up in the second quarter on free throws, going 10-10. Kuhn was 6-6 in the second quarter alone. NorthWood, meanwhile, was 3-7 from the line allowing its opponent to build a lead as large as 15 points at 24-9 with 2:15 to spare. Wawasee held a 28-16 advantage at the break.
Saturday night’s game was dominated by the two post players for both teams in Schmeltz of Wawasee and Savannah Feenstra of NorthWood. Feenstra led her team in rebounds with five and in scoring with 17 points. 11 of the junior’s points came in the second half where the Panthers outscored Wawasee 30-24. The 6′ junior was able to stay out of serious foul trouble, tallying just three, and be a force for her squad during the comeback.
As good as Feenstra was, Schmeltz was right there with her. The 6′ senior pulled down four rebounds, was 2-3 from three-point range, 5-6 at the line and led all scorers with 19 points. Schmeltz shot all of her free throws in the fourth quarter, making her final two to put her team up 52-46 with 28 seconds remaining. Kabrea Rosotchak was also clutch as the line in the final minute, sinking both of her shots, to help preserve the lead.
NorthWood was able to get back into the game by putting the pressure on Wawasee with presses and traps. The strategy worked as the game got very close in the fourth, 40-36, but Wawasee never lost the lead throughout the night and was able to ride its strong start to a victory.
“We held together in some of the toughest stretches tonight and that’s what I’m proud of my team for,” Carpenter stated.
It was fitting that the Warriors picked up what could be considered a signature win on the team’s autograph night. Though the win shows definite improvement for Wawasee, it does not spell doom and gloom for NorthWood who is still finding its new identity after the loss of Riley Hershberger.
“Getting off to that start was obviously not the best thing for us,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “Wawasee played very well. We needed some time with feeling our way through now with missing Riley. I thought we did that. That team that played the last three quarters sure didn’t look like a team that was reeling to me. That was a comment that was in one article last week and I just don’t see it. I see a lot of fight in those kids. I wish we could’ve played five quarters tonight, that would’ve been fun.”
NorthWood (12-6, 2-1) has now dropped its past four games and will travel to take on defending sectional champion No. 7 Tippecanoe Valley Tuesday night. Yoder’s goal is to avoid the same mistakes his team made early in the Wawasee game.
“That’s the lesson we have to learn tonight, you can’t start that slow,” Yoder stated. “If we start with the same aggressiveness and attitude that we had in the second half and understanding that whatever happens happens, then we’ll be okay, especially on the road. It was hype in here tonight. Coach Carpenter is doing a great job with them. They came out, busted some threes on us and we were in a hole.”
The Panthers had two players in double figures after Feenstra in Taitlyn Trenshaw with 12 points and Mackenzie Bergman with 10. Kuhn finished with 12 points for Wawasee before fouling out.
Wawasee (7-8, 2-1) hosts Columbia City Tuesday night. The win snaps a six-game losing streak against the Panthers dating back to the 2011 sectional championship game.
Before the start of Saturday’s varsity game, former Wawasee head coach Kem Zolman was presented with the Northern Lakes Conference’s Outstanding Service Award and a lifetime pass to NLC contests. Zolman led the girls basketball program at Wawasee for 18 seasons.
In that time he led his teams to five sectional championships, two regional championships, a semi-state championship and state runner-up showing in 2007. In addition, Zolman boasted two NLC tournament titles, four regular season titles and was named the conference’s Coach of the Year three times, district COY twice and led the 2008 Indiana All-Star team. Zolman also served on staff for the boys program at Wawasee for 10 seasons before taking the reigns as the girls head coach. NorthWood principal and NLC president Dave Maugel presented the award to Zolman in front of the home crowd.
In the JV game, Wawasee (12-3) held on for a 40-37 victory. Wawasee’s Hannah Lancaster led all players with 11 points while NorthWood (13-3) was led by Katelyn Rulli who tallied 10.
The freshman game was a 24-22 final in favor of Wawasee. Maddison Mottern and Rhian Galloway each scored seven for the Warriors while Delaney Davis led all players with 10 points for NorthWood.