WARSAW — After dropping two straight games and the sudden departure of their leading scorer, the Tigers needed a confidence-builder.
Following a rough start opposite Lake Central, that’s exactly what Warsaw got, using a 21-6 third period to rally past the Indians for a 50-35 win at the Tiger Den Friday night.
“This is just a good win for us. We didn’t play well last weekend. We just didn’t, and to come in and get a win tonight was just really important,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle.
“Winning this game tonight really helps us with our confidence and our mojo.”
After opening the game with a rare four-point play by Wyatt Amiss, Warsaw went scoreless for a span of nearly nine minutes. A run of 15 unanswered points by the visitors put the Tigers in a double-digit deficit early in the second stanza, but another Amiss triple from the top of the key on an inside-out assist from Tyler Metzinger helped cue a 13-4 Warsaw spurt and the home team trailed just 19-17 at the half.
That’s when the Tigers really got hot.
While Amiss had provided much of the offense over the first half, several other players began producing during an 8-of-10 third period that propelled Warsaw to a 38-25 lead, and the Tigers never looked back.
“We spent most of halftime talking about the execution aspects of our zone offense. We came out the first possession, and what we drew up was right there. Wyatt got a 3 from the corner, and that was a good way to start,” said Ogle.
“Because we’re obviously not brimming with confidence at that point to start the game, so that was hopefully a stretch that, as we look back on this season, was pivotal because we could’ve easily just kind of imploded there, and we didn’t.”
“We just lost them early in that corner. Obviously they got some confidence, rolled with it, scored 21 in the third. That’s kind of been our nemesis — just being able to bounce back and get stops when offensively we might be struggling,” explained Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic.
“That’s the game. We don’t have the genetic makeup to overcome 15 with what we do defensively. I can’t speed the game up. The game has got to be single digits. If we get down that much we’re in trouble. We’ve got to be perfect from there on out, and it’s hard in a game to be perfect.”
Amiss knocked down five of his first six 3-point attempts to finish with a game-high 16 points in his first start after the departure of Brian Elliott over the weekend. Metzinger went an efficient 4 of 6 from the floor — including makes on both his 3-point attempts — en route to 12 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots, Blake Marsh scored 11 with five rebounds and two assists, and Nolan Groninger notched 10 points with a team-high seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the comeback win.
“Any game that you can have four guys in double figures it’s just going to help. It’s big. That type of balance makes us a lot harder to defend,” said Ogle.
Nick Anderson put up 13 points to lead the Indians, while Dominic Ciapponi scored eight for Lake Central (1-4), which scuffled to a 5-of-19 (26 percent) shooting mark in the second half, including makes on just 2 of 11 shots during the pivotal third period.
“A few games this season I’ve been pretty darn upset with how we performed. Tonight I’m not walking out of here too upset with our effort as much as let’s find a way defensively to stop those runs,” said Milausnic.
The win was not only an important bounce back for the Tigers (3-2), it also marked Ogle’s 250th head coaching win with the team, and the players celebrated the milestone after the game.
“The players seemed pretty happy about that,” said Ogle. “That was kind of touching. In the team room, they were cheering. It kind of was organic, or maybe Coach (Hal) Gunter said something, but we hadn’t talked about it. The players seemed happy, and I was relieved a little bit that we were kind of able to get settled in there a little bit and win this game.”
Meanwhile Friday, Warsaw’s JV and freshman teams also collected wins.
The JV Tigers led by a tentative 14-13 margin at halftime but used 10-of-17 (59 percent) second half shooting to outscore their guests 15-14 on the way to a 39-27 win. Jackson Dawson put up team-highs of 11 points and six rebounds, while Brock Poe scored 10 points while dishing out four assists with four rebounds and two steals in the win.
Warsaw’s freshmen held off a late surge by Lake Central to win their game, 43-32. The Indians’ late run cut Warsaw’s lead to just three, but the Tigers reeled off eight straight points on the way to the victory. Judah Simfukwe dropped 18 points, and Sami Smith scored 12 points to lead the Tiger freshmen.
Warsaw’s varsity and JV will play their Northern Lakes Conference-opener at Wawasee next Friday. The Tigers look to avenge a home loss last year, when the Warriors snapped a string of 21 straight NLC wins by Warsaw.
“We’re excited about going up to Wawasee on the 14th for NLC round one. After last year, we’re looking forward to that game,” said Ogle.