SYRACUSE – You could almost hear Tom Petty and see that girl on the skateboard whizzing back and forth over the California horizon Thursday night. The way Northridge was shooting threes, the just kept fallin’ all night in a runaway 67-51 boys basketball final over Wawasee.
Threes were Free Fallin’ early and often for the Raiders, who made more threes in the first half – eight – than they did twos – six – but nonetheless shellshocked Wawasee. Jackson Erekson hit five of those in the first half and finished with 16 total points. Forcing Wawasee to spread out and cover all of the perimeter, holes opened up in Wawasee’s defense as Northridge chose which direction it wanted to go.
The Warriors, which came into the contest with a less than 100 percent Trevon Coleman, recovering from a knee injury suffered in early January at Elkhart Memorial, but still welcomed back its top scorer just the same for the first time since the injury. Coleman’s presence gave Wawasee an immediate lift, keeping pace with Northridge’s triggers to trail just 16-11 after the first quarter.
But as Erekson and the Raiders continued to fire away in the second quarter, Wawasee’s inability to make stops caught up with them. Ridge went on a 22-10 binge in the second quarter, taking a 38-21 lead to the locker room.
“We tried to confuse them a little bit with some different looks in terms of defense, start out in triangle and two, and force some other guys to beat us than (Connor) Utley and (Luke) Morrison,” started Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “Morrison is a very, very good player. We really held him down in the first half, but good teams have other players that can step up. We rolled the dice a little bit to get some other guys to beat us, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Wawasee’s aspirations of Runnin’ Down A Dream of erasing its Northern Lakes Conference skid, now six on the season and 41 straight dating back to a win over Ridge in 2011, folded as Northridge maintained a double-digit lead the entire second half. Wawasee has also lost three straight and 10 of its last 11 games.
Northridge (8-7, 4-2 NLC) finished 10-18 from three-point range, were also a very efficient 13-14 from the free throw line and committed just five turnovers in the game. Nick Yoder added 14 points, Utley 13 points and Morrison 12 points in the win.
Wawasee (5-11, 0-6 NLC) had Coleman show flashes of his old self in a 14-point game, with Jacob Hand scoring all 13 of his points in the second half and Bennett Hoffert finishing with 12 points.
Everingham is still optimistic his team is just a couple plays away from turning things around. Citing eight days off to prepare for an upstart Goshen club next Friday, there are plenty of things to look over, including eight more days for Coleman to heal up.
“We have not gone into one game this year where we really felt like we were not going to win,” Everingham stated. “That is a huge jump from where these guys were. They continue to believe that we are going to win. Sometimes the belief that you can do something is half the battle. We believe we can win. I believe in our guys and I believe we can win. It’s just a matter of, number one, getting healthy, a little bit of rest, then starting to do some good things a little more consistently. Including defense.”
The Wawasee JV moved to 13-3 overall with a 41-32 win over the Raiders.
A pair of notables during the evening including former Wawasee boys basketball head coach Phil Mishler being named into the Basketball Ring of Honor before the varsity game. Mishler, the winningest coach in program history with 168 wins in 13 years, took the Warriors to the semi-state in 2005 and won three sectional titles. At halftime, the Kosciusko County Special Olympics Jaguars and Panthers basketball teams played an exhibition game. Shadowed by Wawasee girls basketball players Hannah Haines, Kabrea Rostochak and Madison Beaman, the two teams played to a captivated audience for seven minutes. The two teams play games throughout the year at various sites in Indiana as part of Special Olympics in Indiana.