NAPPANEE – It seemed too good to be true for the Wawasee basketball team at the Panther Pit. A terrific first half performance put the Warriors in a good position to end a losing skid that started in December and a conference losing skid that started three seasons back. It seemed too good to be true, and it was.
In the second half, offensive production dipped, shots were rushed and confidence started to slip away for the Warriors. All of that led combined with a solid shooting performance by NorthWood in the third and fourth quarters led to a 64-51 Panther victory Friday night.
After falling behind 2-0 to start the game, the Warriors would go on a 10-0 run and lead their Northern Lake Conference foes 17-11 after the first quarter. Wawasee continued to frustrate NorthWood in the second quarter, even the visiting cheer block was booming more than the usually intimidating home crowd. NorthWood outscored the Warriors 12-10 in the quarter, but the visitors held a 27-25 advantage at the break.
Aaron Voirol, who has emerged as a reliable scorer for the Warriors as of late, led the team with 10 points at half and finished with a career-high 18 points. Dakiyron Fox kept the Panthers in contention in the first half with a 12-point effort. Fox only scored three in the second half, but NorthWood got more than enough production elsewhere.
Vincent Miranda went into the locker room with just four points at the half, but would finish with a game-high 23 points. Miranda hit two of his three attempts from behind the arc in the second half and would go a perfect 11-11 from the line in the game. Miranda scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Miranda was the spark the Panthers needed to eclipse the upset-minded Warriors. The Panthers shot 54-percent from the field in the second half, after a 36-percent performance in the first. Wawasee finished the first half with a respectable 42-percent effort from the floor, but was connecting just 33-percent of the time in the second half.
“It obviously made a big difference for us to be playing well and shooting well in that first half,” began Wawasee head coach Steve Wiktorowski. “Even in the second half I didn’t think we played poorly. We weren’t quite as intense, but we were still trying to attack the basket. We still made NorthWood earn its points and work for its shot attempts throughout the whole game, which is important.”
The coach was correct, NorthWood earned every point it got Friday night. The issue for Wawasee was self-inflicted wounds. The Warriors hurt themselves with empty possessions (13 turnovers in total) and a poor performance from the charity stripe, going just 7-14.
There were still plenty of encouraging things to take from the game. Jeffrey Moore did well and generated points in his first start of the season while Alex Clark looked better on the offensive end of the court scoring 10 points. Junior Jayce Boatwright also made an impact with six points, two boards and steal and block. Boatwright is a played that may even see more time on the court in the future.
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that,” Wiktorowski said of Boatwright possibly cracking the starting lineup. “I thought he came off the bench and again showed how he can help us. Stori (Bright) has been consistent for us and that is what Jayce (Boatwright) is working against. But, we’ll continue to look at some things because Jayce really showed us that he can generate some offense for us.”
Wawasee hopes to see progression from its players the will equal an NLC victory. The Warriors (5-5, 0-2) look to end the 23-game conference losing steak Friday night when it travels to North Side Gymnasium to take on Elkhart Memorial (6-4, 1-0).
NorthWood also won the junior varsity contest behind Caleb Lung’s 15 points. The Panthers claimed a 57-50 victory over the Warrior JV. Wawasee’s Aaron Beer led all scorers with 24 points by hitting eight three pointers.