By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – It just kept happening. And happening at the wrong times.
Wawasee saw a first half of positive play in its season opener turn into a disastrous second half as Manchester would rally and eventually claim a 54-49 girls basketball win Tuesday night at the Hardwood Teepee.
After enduring three weeks of cancellations, COVID issues and not knowing what the next day would look like, Wawasee amended its calendar with just a day’s warning, replacing Concord with Manchester. And after 16 minutes, had recovered from a painfully slow start to take a 28-24 lead into the half.
The host’s inside-outside combo work was picking up, with the shooting of Jada Carter and Kennedy White drawing Manchester out, which opened up chances for Lindsay Doss and Becca Smith to get looks inside. After White hit a bucket and a trey to get Wawasee up seven at 33-26, Manchester would take advantage of a slew of sloppy Wawasee possessions.
Seven turnovers and 10 missed shots in the third period allowed Manchester to rattle off a 13-0 run to end the frame. Eva Bazzoni would be in the middle of it, scoring 11 of her game-high 23 points in the quarter as Manchester came out of the break with a 39-33 lead.
“What we have to figure out is we got out of control offensively, so we have to get back in control,” said Wawasee head coach Matt Carpenter. “We went passive and we let Manchester become the aggressor and, boom, they went on their run. I felt like the aggressor was going to win tonight if they did the fundamental things, and Manchester did more of those than we did.”
As poorly as Wawasee took care of the ball in the second half, which sputtered to 24 total turnovers on the night, the hosts had whittled a 10-point lead down to six after Emily Haines nailed a three. Wawasee then won a scrum for a jump ball, and Haines was one gentle breeze from getting a second three to fall with 26 seconds left, her shot rattling around and out which sealed the fate as Bazzoni hit four free throws to ice Manchester’s first win of the season.
“So proud of this group,” said Manchester head coach Josh Troyer. “We have played the 56th hardest schedule so far in all of Indiana and second hardest in 2-A, and we brought it even more tonight. Every player that played contributed to a great team win tonight.”
Bazzoni chipped in eight rebounds and Emma Garriott did a little of everything with nine points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
White led the Warriors (0-1) with 14 points, five rebounds, a pair of assists and a block. Smith ended with 10 points and six boards but was mired in foul trouble all game, and Doss, Haines and Danielle Jenkins all had six points.
“The team knows it’s going to take all seven of them if we want to go anywhere,” Carpenter said of his seven varsity players in rotation. “If we lose one, and these days who knows from day to day, we don’t have a lot of options to fill those spots. So in spurts tonight, like that third quarter, we can’t afford to get down on ourselves, or make a ton of mistakes and lose focus. We did a nice job getting some of that back in the fourth, but when you dig into a 17-point swing having that lead then trailing by 10, we have to find ways to avoid that.”
Wawasee would play its way to a 35-28 win in the JV opener. Abbi Burelison paced the victors with 11 points and nine rebounds and Kaydence Shepherd had a full plate with seven points, six steals and four assists. Gracie Lauer led the Squires with 11 points and three rebounds.
Wawasee is next scheduled to visit Westview Saturday afternoon for a varsity-only contest. Manchester (1-4) will also play again Saturday at Oak Hill in a boys-girls varsity doubleheader.