By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – For parts of Friday night’s boys hoops contest in the Hardwood Teepee, both Wawasee and Prairie Heights looked like a pair of teams that just started their seasons this week. In other moments, both teams had the tenacity of two teams battling for a sectional title.
In the end, Wawasee had a little more of the late season juice than the Heights, posting a 57-43 win.
“I thought both teams played extremely hard and physical,” said Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “It was a little bit like a street fight out there.”
The night was full of chippy play, shoves, a technical foul and all sorts of moods more reminiscent of a early March tournament battle than a season opener for Wawasee and game two for the Heights. Wawasee adapted to the style of play, and had a little more depth to endure the mounting foul trouble that slowed down the Panthers as the night wore on.
Five straight points from Keaton Dukes gave Wawasee an early 10-7 lead, but that score rode to the end of the first quarter. As Wawasee built its lead to 13 at 33-20 after scoring five straight, a scrappy Panther side made a dash to keep it close. Tensions continued to boil on the court, and finally got Tim Smith to whistle up Wawasee’s Grant Brooks on a tech, which was followed by a Seth Troyer steal and conversion, which cut the Warrior lead to 10 at 48-38.
That would be the closest the Panthers would get, as Wawasee would continued to break the defensive pressure, continue to pound the ball inside, and continue to weather the storm.
Dukes led the way for the Warriors with 22 points and had nine rebounds to boot. Ethan Carey was the other Warrior in double figures with 10 points, but his defensive work on the perimeter was key, recording four steals and foiling several other Panther passing lanes.
Jack Stover had eight points and eight rebounds, Caden Welty added seven points, Kam Salazar had six assists and a pair of steals, and Brooks pulled down eight boards as part of the lid lifter for Wawasee.
Prairie Heights, which had won 38 total games in its previous two seasons, dropped to 0-2 this season. Troyer had 14 points, but Everingham was more impressed with the job his team did on Chase Bachelor, the 6-3 sophomore mired to a 2-12 shooting night and left throwing his arms around on multiple occasions after Wawasee suffocated him in the paint.
“I told our guys these guys are going to come out and compete and be really physical,” Everingham said. “They know how to compete and they know how to win. What you saw from Prairie Heights was a team that was fighting for something. I think I was most proud that we fought back. We did not back down in any way, shape or form, and made the plays when we needed to.”
The Wawasee JV had a much easier go of things, swarming the Panthers in a 67-6 result. The Warriors scored 55 of the game’s first 57 points, led by 18 points from Collin Roberson and 13 points and 10 boards from Mark Wiggs.
The Wawasee C-team started the night’s sweep with 18 points from Ty Brooks and 10 more points from Skyler Ganshorn in a 61-11 romp.