ELKHART — The game plan could not have gone better, limit Concord’s top player and keep the pace slow. Wawasee executed its strategy about as well as it could have Friday night at McCuen Gym. The Warriors even held top Minutemen scorer Denzel Halliburton to two points. The problem was, however, that Halliburton’s two points were the biggest of the game in what would end up being a 29-28 victory for Concord.
Halliburton pulled up and drained the go-ahead bucket with just 3.4 seconds to spare. Wawasee turned the ball over on the ensuing in-bounds play and that was all she wrote. It was Halliburton’s only basket of the night, though he came in averaging over 10.5 ppg.
Concord raced out to a 10-3 lead in the first quarter, against a low-scoring Wawasee offense, it was just what the Minutemen needed. But the Warriors flipped the script in the second quarter, outscoring Concord 10-3 to make things tied up 13-13 at the half.
Wawasee held Concord to just three points in the third quarter and carried a 24-16 lead into the final eight minutes. In that final quarter the Warriors simply could not get out of their own way. Wawasee was called for two five-second calls and had a handful of other mental mistakes that continued to give Concord chances.
The emotion could be felt from Wawasee’s sideline. The Warriors wanted this win, but not as badly as they needed it. The loss extended the team’s conference losing streak to 40 games, still a Northern Lakes Conference record. Meanwhile, down in Tiger Town, arch rival Warsaw extended an NLC record of its own with its 19th straight win in league play, trouncing NorthWood 54-37.
The Warriors are showing continued signs improvement, even more so when taking into consideration that the team is still without leading scorer Trevon Coleman. Friday’s one-point defeat was the closest the Warriors have been to winning an NLC contest since the last time that they actually did win an NLC contest. That happened on Feb. 15, 2011, back when Donald Trump was just a reality TV star with a lot of money.
While Friday’s loss certainly stings, it is a game that Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham does not want his team to forget.
“Some people might say cheers to forgetting this game,” Everingham began. “It would just the opposite for me, cheers to never forgetting this game. The reason is, we got close but we still have some work to do. I keep saying that our progress is about developing into a competitive basketball team. I think that’s what you’ve seen. The Memorial game, we lose by four. Plymouth, we lose by nine. We lose by one tonight, it’s a progression.
“It might be one of the few times that we had a lead as big as we did tonight. We forced Concord into a desperation mode and it was successful for them.”
Wawasee led by as many as eight points but the press from Concord was too much for Wawasee to handle at times.
The Warriors were led by Cameron Schlabach and Ben Hoffert as each player scored eight points. Brandon Emerick led Concord with 14 points. Cedric Mitchell led Concord with five rebounds. Jacob Hand led the Warriors with the same amount.
Wawasee (5-9, 0-5) turns right around to face Lakeland Saturday night in LaGrange.
Concord won the JV contest 41-39. Wawasee was led by Aaron Evans’ 14-point outing while Austin Miller added 13 for the Warriors. Wawasee is now 11-3 on the season.