SYRACUSE — After last year’s upset at the Tiger Den, Warsaw’s boys waited a long time for a reprisal over Wawasee.
Although coach Doug Ogle said the revenge factor wasn’t a primary motivation for Friday’s Northern Lakes Conference-opener in Syracuse, the Tigers looked pretty ready to go, jumping out to a 15-point halftime lead, then holding off a third-quarter charge by the Warriors for a 50-39 win at the Hardwood Teepee.
“To avenge last year was maybe like 11 percent — it’s a new team — but it was some. We did talk about it some, but we didn’t really need to talk about it, honestly. It didn’t need to be said,” said Ogle of last year’s loss to Wawasee, which snapped a string of 21 straight NLC wins by the Tigers.
The visitors scored the game’s first five points and never once trailed, knocking down 8 of 13 shots from the floor (61.5 percent) in the first half on the way to a 26-11 halftime cushion. But the Warriors answered the bell in the third period, using a 9-0 run midway through the period to cut their deficit back to single digits.
Austin Miller’s steal and fast break layup at the 3:39 stop of the period got the home crowd in it, and the Warriors eventually whittled Warsaw’s lead all the way down to eight with Bennett Hoffert’s catch-and-shoot triple from way behind the line with 1:51 remaining in the quarter. A 6-1 quarter-ending spurt pushed the Tigers back to 37-24, however, and the visitors eventually pushed that advantage all the way out to 19 en route to their second straight win.
“I liked how we played in the first half to build a 15-point lead,” said Ogle. “Then things got a little crazy in the second half and we didn’t execute nearly as well, but they got it to eight and we stretched it back out to 15 or 16. A good start for us in NLC round one.”
“You get behind 15 against a good program and a good coach like Doug Ogle, it’s really difficult — 15 feels like 30,” said Wawasee coach Jon Everingham. “I thought we had the possessions in the game to be able to kind of sneak back in it, and I told the guys ‘Let’s try to get it to 10, maybe in the single digits,’ and it got loud in here. I thought we had them rattled a little bit, too, and Coach Ogle had to use a couple key timeouts to kind of settle his team down.”
Following a 12 3-pointer performance in the Warriors’ first win over Whitko Saturday, Warsaw’s main concern was holding their hosts down from deep, which they were pretty effective at, limiting Wawasee to 5-of-18 (28 percent) shooting from beyond the arc Friday. The Warriors actually got a fair amount of their production on fast breaks with 17 points off 13 turnovers by the Tigers, including five steals by Austin Miller, who finished with a game-high 18 points for Wawasee.
“He’s an exceptional defensive player, and he came to play tonight,” said Everingham of Miller. “He was in a little bit of foul trouble, but we were so far behind in the game that we had to keep him in there. I don’t think too many people knew of Austin Miller, but they will after tonight because what he did out there was exceptional. Scoring 18 points, five steals and the things that he did were really, really good.”
But Miller’s offensive outburst was no match for Warsaw’s balance as three Tigers put up double figures in Syracuse.
Tyler Metzinger and Wyatt Amiss put up 13 points apiece — Metzinger via an assertive interior game and Amiss from beyond the arc and at the free throw line — while Nolan Groninger scored 16 points for his team. Groninger put up his team-high tally at an ultra-efficient 6-of-7 clip from the floor and perfect 4-for-4 performance from the free throw line, where Warsaw finished the night 14 of 19, compared to just 2-of-6 free throw shooting by the hosts. Groninger also passed out four assists in the win.
“Really efficient. Nolan played well tonight. I think he was ready to go for sure,” Ogle said.
Warsaw’s junior varsity also won its contest, 46-35. Bishop Walters scored 11, Brock Poe notched 10, and Jackson Dawson scored nine points with 11 rebounds as the JV Tigers out-rebounded their counterparts by a dominant 38-9 margin.
Wawasee’s JV got 12 points and four assists from Jaydon Boyer.
The Warriors (1-5, 0-1 NLC) will return to action on the road at Columbia City next Tuesday. Warsaw 4-2 (1-0 NLC) faces a quick turnaround with a game Saturday night at Crown Point.
“We’ll look forward to heading into Northwest Indiana tomorrow night to see how good Crown Point is,” said Ogle. “But we’ll enjoy this one tonight and get ready. We’ve got a much better feeling than we had last year at this time.”