ARCADIA – Before Friday morning’s game Warsaw and Bloomington North had never gone toe-to-toe with one an other on the basketball court.
By the time that the game had ended, the Cougars were left wishing it had just stayed that way.
The Tigers used some precision shooting and won the battle on the boards to help secure a 54-46 victory over Bloomington North in the opening round of the Hamilton Heights Holiday Tournament.
“It was a typical holiday tournament, morning game,” said Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle. “It just had that feeling to it, we survived it, we have to play a lot better tonight.”
Warsaw controlled the scoreboard from the get-go. The Tigers trailed once the entire game, a 3-1 deficit very early in the first quarter. The Tigers first quarter was capped by a buzzer-beating three from Tim Swanson to give Warsaw a 14-8 cushion going into the second quarter. That was Swanson’s only bucket on the night but the junior led all players with nine rebounds.
Both teams tried their hardest to put the crowd to sleep in the second by playing “keep-away” and holding the ball for extended periods of time as a total of just 13 points were scored in the frame. Warsaw held a 20-15 lead at the half.
As boring as the second quarter was, the third quarter was just the opposite. In the third quarter both teams hit three three-pointers in what was an exciting change of pace. But as good as the Cougars shooting was, Warsaw’s was simply better as Warsaw outscored Bloomington 17-13 in the frame. Nate Pearl got the scoring barrage started with a three in what would be a six-point quarter for him.
Pearl was excellent for the Tigers the whole game finishing with a 6-6 effort from the line and 4-7 from the floor. The senior guard tied for team-high honors for the Tigers with 17 points and added four rebounds.
“We made shots,” said Ogle when asked about the difference for his team in the third quarter. “(Nate) Pearl made a shot and Rashaan (Jackson) got open a few times under the basket, I just think we shot better than we did in the first half.”
Warsaw added another 17 points in the fourth quarter, one shy of Bloomington’s 18, but managed to hold of a late surge by the Cougars.
The key late was success at the line. The Tigers were 15-18 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Junior Jake Mangas continued his strong play, going a perfect 4-4 from the line in the quarter (7-7 for the game) and would also finish with 17 points to lead the Tigers in scoring with Pearl.
The Cougars were led in scoring by Malik Laffoon (21) Tyler Truesdel (11). They were also without second-leading scorer Saikou Jallow, who was inactive for the game, which left Ogle thinking that his team should not have struggled the way it did against the Cougars. Despite that, Ogle said he expects to see a better performance from his team in Friday night’s game against the host team, Hamilton Heights. When asked about the match up Ogle was excited for the opportunity.
“Here, on their home floor, we’ll look forward to it,” said Ogle with a smirk.
The win over Bloomington marks the fourth straight win for the Tigers, who improve to 5-2. The Cougars drop to 3-4.
Hamilton Heights won the first game of the day over Indianapolis Shortridge 81-53. Sophomore Hunter Crist had 22 points for the Huskies, who improve to 5-2, while junior Garrett Paull had 17. Shortridge, which falls to 4-3, was led by 23 points from Isreal White.
Friday night’s championship game will be another one with historical meaning for the Tigers as it will be the first time Warsaw and Hamilton Heights have met on the hardwood.
Shortridge and Bloomington North play at 6 p.m. with the title tilt between the Tigers and Huskies to follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.