SYRACUSE — Like a prize fighter, West Noble took Wawasee’s best punches and landed offense when it needed. While not playing for any titles or championship belts, round one went to the Chargers, 44-32, in a boys basketball tilt Saturday night.
In a pace that could have been a knock-down, drag out slugfest that permeated the first four minutes of the game that had 17 combined points, Wawasee chose instead to make it a chess match. Running its ‘C’ game stall on nearly a half dozen occasions throughout, Wawasee head coach Phil Mishler admitted afterward the size and range of West Noble didn’t fit his team’s make-up on the floor.
A 23-11 halftime lead by West Noble, which outscored Wawasee 15-2 in the second quarter despite Wawasee holding the ball for nearly half the quarter in perimeter passing, set the tone.
“Their height really destroyed us in not being able to get any second looks at the basket,” Mishler said, noting his club had just a 22 percent offensive rebounding efficiency and only scored five second-chance points. “We just don’t have the height that can compete against it. But we do have the quickness and the shooting, and that was a great thing to see tonight was that we started to figure it out.”
West Noble head coach Jim Best, who is very familiar with the Wawasee program having served as an assistant to Mishler for several years, didn’t mind the stall tactics as his team never trailed after taking a 10-9 lead early in the second quarter. But as Wawasee began to chuck threes in the second half and crept within seven at 39-32, Best felt his team’s ability to rebound kept his team in command.
“If they want to go into ‘C’ game, that’s fine with me when we have a 10-point lead,” Best said. “You just have to rely on what you do on a daily basis and hope the kids buy into what we are trying to do. We told the kids they are going to shoot a bunch of threes, we just have to get out and defend them and not let them get second chances.”
The Warriors, already short-handed without Jake Thompson to a shoulder injury, also found themselves short a hobbled Chase Myers, who scored 16 points at Manchester Friday night. In the third quarter, Wawasee was dealt another blow when Alex Clark, who scored 17 points Friday night but was held to just two points Saturday, took a shot to his right eye. Clark was removed from the game and did not return.
The bulk of the offense for the Warriors (2-2) went through senior Ryndan Aaron, who was 6-13 shooting, hitting four three’s to amass 16 points, but the night was a tough one overall for Wawasee. Shooting just 12-34 overall, and making only seven of 26 three-point attempts, Wawasee never really garnered much offensive thrust. The Warriors also only went to the foul line once all night when Jeff Moore made one of three attempts in the third quarter.
Aaron did hit a pair of consecutive threes in the third quarter, but Wawasee still trailed 33-25. After Wawasee stole a West Noble pass and Sam Clark converted a layup, Wawasee trailed by seven with just over two minutes to go. A Wawasee turnover under the West Noble basket in the final two minutes allowed Nick Thomas a second chance to score two of his team-high 15 points.
Drew Schermerhorn added 10 points for the Chargers.
West Noble (3-0) committed just seven fouls the entire night, and outrebounded Wawasee 22-12.
“I thought overall we hit the boards pretty good, and that was tough because you know they are going to take long shots,” Best said. “You know there are going to be long rebounds. Most guys are used to going to the rim. That was a concern of ours. Luckily, they were soft enough shots that we were able to bring the basketball down.”
The result for Mishler wasn’t a total loss, as the game allowed several moments to teach a lineup that at one point had Aaron playing with three sophomores and a freshman.
“I thought the guys that came in really did a good job filling in, and playing a quality team like West Noble is a tough assignment. With a team like they have, they can really make a run. This was good experience for our kids.”
In the JV game, West Noble asserted itself in a 39-24 victory. Drew Wiley led the Chargers with 14 points and eight boards while Waylan Richardson chipped in 10 points and six boards. Bailey Hershberger paced Wawasee with 14 points, but the Warriors made just one shot inside the arc on 12 attempts and hit just seven threes on 26 attempts.
Wawasee will use the week to heal up and look forward to Saturday night when another neighborhood rival, Whitko, pays a visit to the Hardwood Teepee.
“It doesn’t really matter what the team is like coming in,” offered Mishler. “We may play a team to 10 points, the next day we could beat them by five or they could beat us by 60. To me, its all about using each day to get ready for the tournament. By the time these sophomores are in the sectional, they are really like juniors.
“To me its not really about the opponent or the end score, whether its Manchester and a win or West Noble and a loss. As long as we can look at it and say we played better today, we played hard today, we communicated today and improve, we can feel really good. As long as we continue that, this will be a really fun team to watch.”