SYRACUSE — The Lady Warriors never quit, but after a fast start by visiting Columbia City, they were never able to get out front, either. And whenever the home team made a run, the Lady Eagles were ready to respond en route to a 55-40 win at the Hardwood Teepee Tuesday night.
“They jumped on us a little bit early,” said Wawasee head coach Matt Carpenter. “They’re a team that pressures you from end to end consistently, and they’re quick. That surprised us, despite us working on it, but then we were able to climb back in. The second quarter they had another run, and we had to try to respond again. That gap came back, and that ended up being the difference in the game because you space it out over 10 and it’s tough to come back against a team like this.”
City jumped out to a 10-2 lead at the outset before the Warriors got rolling with a 7-3 first quarter-ending run to pull back within four at 13-9. A 10-0 start to the second period featuring a wing triple from Grace Schrader and an old-fashioned three-point play by Alaina Rongos pushed Wawasee into a double-digit hole, however, and the Warriors failed to make a single field goal in the frame, falling behind by 15 at halftime in what would be the game’s final margin.
“We talk about jumping on teams early, trying to be the aggressor, getting easy points, defense creating offense for us. I thought our kids did a great job tonight of playing passing lanes, being aggressive, getting boards and getting out and running,” explained City coach Amy Shearer.
The Eagles’ defensive pressure did cue a decent amount of their offense as they pressured their hosts into 21 turnovers for 10 points off turnovers. The Warriors cut those turnover numbers in half after the intermission, but City’s board-crashing led to a lopsided, 40-22 advantage off the glass for the night, a full 18 of those coming on the offensive end against Wawasee’s 2-3 zone for a whopping 22 second-chance points.
“We have spent several days talking about getting in and rebounding. Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding, that’s a mainstay of ours, but tonight the kids did a great job of that,” said Shearer. “I was really pleased with their effort on the boards. We had a huge rebounding advantage… I was happy with that.”
“Some of that was the ball just slipping through our hands and not being able to get two hands on it. You give them credit for that because they crashed the boards hard,” Carpenter said. “Part of us zoning them is their dribble penetration is really good right now, and we don’t have enough girls that are quick enough on the perimeter right now. We tried to mix up our defense a little bit. We also know that if we rotate well in our zone, we can defend the arc, but anytime you zone the challenge is going to be rebounding. It is a double-edged sword. It is something that we are rolling the dice with a little bit right now to try to keep them out of the paint and try to defend the arc a little bit.”
A 10-5 start to the second half and Kennedy White putback at the 3:09 stop of the third period pulled Wawasee back within 10 at 35-25, but the Warriors were never able to get back within single digits, let alone out front. Following a five-point outing against NorthWood Saturday, Casey Schroeder overcame a relatively slow start in Tuesday’s game, pouring in 16 points in the second half on her way to a game-high 20 points. She also passed out a trio of assists and pulled down three rebounds in the loss.
“My message to her lately has been to be a complete player. You can’t live and die by how well you’re shooting. Are you going to be able to attack? OK, well that’s offense. Now what’re you going to do defensively? What’re you going to do from a leadership standpoint?” Carpenter explained of Schroeder. “That’s something that she’s been working on, and give her credit. It was a slight reminder at halftime real quick, but that’s all on her. That’s the desire that she’s showing that she knows she’s important to our team in more than just scoring. When she does those other things, the scoring comes, too.”
While Schroeder did the bulk of her team’s scoring, the Eagles had meaningful contributions from five different players, including double-digit outings by Rongos and Bekah Marshall, who finished with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Rongos also used her 6-foot frame to good effect with eight rebounds in the win for City (10-10).
“We have about four kids that on any given night that are oftentimes in double digits,” said Shearer. “Alaina Rongos, Bekah Marshall, Olivia Shearer, Grace Schrader — usually those kids are in double digits for us. We had a lot of kids step up. We did a great job, I felt, with our guards delivering the ball on time to kids under the basket that were open. We could’ve gotten more shots out of a few of those guards, but they were being very unselfish and looking to pass the ball more than shoot it, trying to get it inside.”
Wawasee (3-14) will look to rebound Saturday with a Northern Lakes Conference contest with Elkhart Memorial, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Hardwood Teepee.
“What I’m proud of my girls for is they didn’t fold,” said Carpenter. “They held in there. In the third quarter we had another run on them, a chance to cut it to nine if we make a layup in transition there. Columbia City took advantage of some of our mistakes there in that third quarter, and they were able to push it back out. But credit to my girls for being able to fight for 32 tonight.”
Also Tuesday, Wawasee’s JV fell, 31-18. Ella Beezley scored six, and Becca Smith and Lindsay Doss each finished with four for the JV Warriors. Cit’s JV was paced by Madison Woodward’s game-high 19.