By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – Saturday night’s girls basketball contest between Wawasee and NorthWood could have gone one of several different ways. The Lady Warriors will happily take the path that led to a 44-39 win over the visiting Panthers.
Both clubs left stacks of points on the floor, as bunny after bunny attempts missed the mark and open five footers clanked off back irons. With the game in the balance, NorthWood also missed two wide open three-pointers trailing by two, and again missed open looks as the seconds melted away in a one-possession game.
At any rate, Matt Carpenter and his Wawasee club will gladly take a second Northern Lakes Conference win.
“I told our kids with a couple minutes to go, we have a great shot at winning this basketball game, finish it,” said Carpenter, whose club ended a four-game slide to the Panthers dating back to 2017. “We were getting stops and had been doing it all game. Where are we being successful and can we get that intensity the rest of the game. I thought we did that, we took away what they wanted to do.”
What Carpenter’s team did was press the issue, which Wawasee held NorthWood without a field goal for the first 7:24 of the game. After NorthWood battled back to tie the game at 18 after Kendal Miller nailed a three top open the second half, Wawasee recovered to lead 30-23 at the end of the third.
But that lead quickly dissolved on the heels of seven points to open the fourth by Alea Minnich, who tied the game at 32 with a bucket at the 4:31 mark. The 9-2 Panther run, however, was countered by Wawasee scoring five of the next seven points and NorthWood losing Bre Wise to her fifth foul, her 10 rebounds going to the bench.
“We just don’t have a lot of experience in the post position,” said NorthWood head coach Mark Heeter. “Teams know that. We know that. Bre knows that. Bre, bless her heart, she busts her butt at 5-7. She’s getting rebounds all over the court. We just have to get someone else to get some rebounds, and a little toughness down in the paint.”
Wawasee (4-7, 2-2 NLC) continued to make NorthWood chase, which traditionally has been the other way around, NorthWood the winner of 11 of the past 12 matchups coming into the night. Wawasee’s resolve pleased Carpenter, whose team was routed 41-14 just two nights before by Goshen.
Jada Carter had a big night from the free throw line, making all 12 of her tries to wind up with a team-leading 12 points. Becca Smith’s backdoor bucket broke the 18-18 tie in the third and later had a key make in the fourth, helping her to 10 points. Lindsay Doss’ five points didn’t jump off the page, but four of those were part of Wawasee’s third quarter binge.
Wawasee outscored NorthWood by nine at the free throw line, going 22-28 while the visitors were 13-16.
“Getting to the free throw line that many times was huge,” Carpenter said. “Granted, we had the lead late so we were going to get a half dozen or so extra trips. But the fact we got there shows we are attacking the paint, and that aggressive mentality of attacking defenses.”
Minnich would pace the Panthers (1-6, 1-2 NLC) with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Miller quietly poured in 13 points. But just 12 points from the remainder of the roster irked Heeter, whose team is headed for a ridiculous stretch of games scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, four games in five days. Only Tuesday’s game at Valley was an original schedule. Monday versus Bremen and Wednesday at Concord are make-ups from the myriad of COVID cancellations for the Panthers.
“The inconsistency of this season is killing us,” said a dejected Heeter. “We did have three practices before this, but two weeks with just one practice and two weeks before that. It’s getting harder and harder to get them to remember everything. I don’t want to make excuses, but that’s what we’ve been up against. On the court, we just missed too many easy shots tonight. If we hit half of what we missed, we win the game.”
Olivia Oman scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Panthers to a 46-34 win over the Warriors. Blair Harker scored 14 points for Wawasee.