SYRACUSE — The Wawasee Warriors boys basketball team stepped onto the court Friday in its own gym and played straight man-to-man defense the whole night, defeating the West Noble Chargers in the second round of the Class 3A Wawasee Sectional 65-43.
“I thought we were in a really good place,” Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham said. “We’ve established some inside play with Ethan Hardy. It takes some attention away from just guarding the perimeter for us. I thought it was really key to establishing him in the last four or five games for us. He had a really good game tonight.”
Hardy scored 15 points, went 7-for-9 in the field and had seven rebounds. But, Everingham thought the team’s rebounding game is what contributed to the win.
“We controlled the boards tonight which allowed us some better looks,” Everingham said. “When we didn’t shoot the ball well early in the season, it was because we weren’t getting good looks at the basket. We were taking bad shots. It helps when you have an inside presence like Ethan.”
Ben Hoffert led the team in scoring though as he scored 19 points, 15 of those behind the 3-point arc.
The game started off close with West Noble trailing only three points. The score was 13-10 after the first quarter. Wawasee scored seven points in the first two minutes to pull ahead in the second quarter. Once that happened, the Chargers were having a difficult time recovering. In the second quarter alone, the Warriors outscored the Chargers 19-11.
“These guys really played well and played hard,” West Noble interim head coach Galen Mast said. “They were hitting their shots from the get go. Once Wawasee gets ahead, they are a tough foe to catch. They got the better of us.”
Overall, the Warriors hit 50 percent of all of the shots attempted while the Chargers hit 11 of 45 shots from the field, which amounts to a 24 percent scoring percentage. It also didn’t help that with 1:31 left in the second, David Flores earned his third foul causing him to have to be careful going into the second half. Josh Gross was in foul trouble also, earning his fourth foul with 2:53 left in the third.
Mast said the Warriors played a great game.
“I give Wawasee all the credit,” Mast said. “They came and took it to us right away.”
West Noble scored the first points of the game, but that was the only lead the Chargers had the entire game.
“We took good shots,” Mast said. “We didn’t take bad shots. We were patient offensively. It’s just sometimes your shots just don’t fall.”
Nick Knepper was the leading scorer for the Chargers with 19 points. Gross followed him in scoring with eight points.
“We were ready,” Mast said. “The kids played well. In situations like this, the first few minutes of the game I think can set the tone.”
Since the Warriors won, the team will take on Tippecanoe Valley today.
“It’s for a sectional championship, and that’s a big deal around here,” Everingham said. “It’s a big deal up in Tippy Valley, too. We know what to expect. We know their personnel very, very well. They are going to know us very well. We’ll get to work.”
As for the future of Mast as the head coach of the team, he said they plan on hiring someone for next season.
“We’ll post the position,” Mast said. “We’ve already talked to some people about the position. Jim (Best, former coach) did a great job for us for six or seven years. He gave his heart and soul to the kids. We all just love him to death. We will hire someone to come build the program from second grade on up. That’s the goal.”