SYRACUSE – It came down to one possession, and the final shot just didn’t fall for the Wawasee Warriors Friday night.
Holding for the final shot, St. Joe disrupted Austin Miller’s three-point attempt just enough to send his shot wide as the Indians would go onto a 34-30 win at Wawasee in the championship game of the Wawasee Holiday Invitational.
Miller was the hot hand for Wawasee in the fourth quarter, hitting a trio of three-pointers, his third tying the game at 30. St. Joe would then come back down the court and get a tip-in bucket from Brady Powers to take a two-point lead at 32-30.
Wawasee decided to run down the clock, burning off more than a minute and a timeout to get into a possession play. As the rotation moved to Miller, St. Joe’s defense managed to push Miller further away from the three-point line, and as the ball got to the sophomore, his spot-up was well beyond the stripe. His shot was off the mark, and St. Joe came up with the rebound.
Hunter West got an easy layup off the Wawasee press to make it a two-possession game with five seconds to go, moving the Indians into the championship picture of the inaugural tournament.
“I felt like down two, we could have taken a three-pointer to win,” said Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “I think my responsibility as a coach is to put my team in a position where we have a chance to win basketball games. When you have a three-pointer in the air from Austin Miller to win the game, I felt pretty good about that. If you would have told me before the game we would be in the game, number one, and two, to have a shot to win it, I would have taken that. St. Joe is good.”
Miller would hit four threes in all and lead Wawasee with 12 points. St. Joe’s defense, however, on Jacob Hand was the key to the win. Hand, who scored 16 points in the morning win over Knox, was frustrated on several occasions among double teams and aggressive treatment. Hand would score just three points on 1-8 shooting and was hounded constantly around the basket.
Powers led St. Joe with 13 points and six rebounds.
“We really wanted to get that game tonight, but we didn’t get it done,” Everingham said. “Hats off to St. Joe. Overall for us, it was a good day. We really would have liked to come out victorious in our own tournament, but unfortunately, we fell a little short.”
Wawasee (3-5) will turn to a three-game stretch next week, all at home, beginning with a matchup Tuesday against Everingham’s last head coaching stop, DeKalb. St. Joe (6-3) will host Jimtown on Jan. 4.
Wawasee 52, Knox 44
Everingham was adamant after his club knocked off the Redskins that the playbook and green lights weren’t opened up. But a function of execution allowed Wawasee to maintain positive offense throughout and eventually pull away.
The Warriors turned a 33-27 deficit into a 36-33 lead after Miller hit back-to-back threes on well-executed ball reversals, and then a wide open splash from Bennett Hoffert. Knox would rally back to take a 41-38 lead on a dish from Kooper Broeker to Austin Risner, but Wawasee used an and-one from Hand to grab a 43-42 lead and then immediately came back with another three from Miller.
The Warriors would go 6-8 from the free throw line to seal its trip to the final.
“To be honest, we wanted to focus on stopping both Broeker and (Eian) Coad, they are very good scorers and average about 16-18 points per game,” Everingham said. “It’s kind of pick your poison with them. We wanted to make sure Coad didn’t get off from the outside, and we wanted to make it difficult on him shooting the three, and with the exception of that 30-foot three he hit, I think we did that. If we would have worried about Broeker the whole time, Coad might have lit us up. So we had to roll the dice on stopping Coad and taking our chances.”
Broeker would still lead the Redskins with 19 points, but Coad was held to just 3-6 shooting and nine points.
Hand led Wawasee with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, seven of the rebounds on the offensive glass. Cayden Wegener and Miller combined to hit five threes and combined for 19 points.
St. Joe 64, Northridge 53
The size of St. Joe could have taken advantage of Northridge’s lineup, but its guard play did the trick.
West attacked the basket effectively, leading the Indians with 16 points while Powers attached 15 points. The duo shot all of St. Joe’s free throws, connecting on 13-16 tries. JR Konieczny represented the big men for the Indians with 15 points, just a freshman standing 6-5.
Northridge made a run in the second half, getting within two possessions, but could not make a stop on the defensive end to line up makes on the offensive end. Nick Yoder led the Raiders with 19 points and Connor Utley added 18 points. St. Joe limited Northridge’s post to just four points.
Northridge 60, Knox 45
Yoder and Utley continued their solid day in the consolation win, both dropping 15 points in the Raiders victory.
Utley scored nine of his total in the second quarter, helping Ridge jump out to a 30-17 lead at the half. Yoder hit all six of his free throw tries in the second half.
Broeker again was the focus for Knox, scoring 15 points, and nine coming in a 15-point Redskins third quarter that kept his team within range. Coad hit a trio of threes and finished with 12 points.
Northridge (4-3) will meet Warsaw on Jan. 5 while Knox (7-3) will visit Winamac on Jan. 6.