By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
NEW LONDON ? The WACO boys had a couple of 30-plus point losses to Notre Dame during the regular season, but the Warriors gave the Nikes a sweat in their first round game in New London on Thursday night.
The Warriors were able to run with the Nikes all night long, but a spattering of Notre Dame three-pointers sank WACO as the Nikes escaped 53-44.
The two teams battled back and forth early. After a slow start, WACO clawed back to tie the game at 8-8 in the first period, but Notre Dame ended the quarter on an 11-2 run. Sharp shooter Jeff Tjaden knocked down a couple of three-pointers in the final minutes of the first, and WACO trailed 19-10.
The Warriors were able to spread the scoring around to four different players throughout the first half. Nik Coble and Calvin Battle each tallied seven points in the first 16 minutes, but a few costly turnovers kept the Warriors from getting back within one posesison. The two teams played evenly in the second quarter and Notre Dame led 31-22 at the break.
Coble continued to hurt the Nikes inside in the third quarter. He scored eight points in the period to give WACO a boost, but Notre Dame continued to hit their shots and were able to stretch their lead to double digits, leading 43-33 after three.
The Nikes started to pull away in the fourth quarter but WACO was able to cut the lead back down to single digits in the last minute with a late run. The Warrior rally ran out of time, however, and the season was over for the WACO boys.
After the contest, WACO coach Paul Kissell gave credit to the victorious Nikes.
?They?re a fine club (and) a long athletic team,? Kissell said. ?Just too many turnovers by us in that first half that really hindered us into getting into a flow offensively, but overall the effort was great.?
Coble scored 18 points to lead the team. Battle finished with nine. Colton Horak scored seven. Drew Kissell had six and Conner Eichelberger scored four.
WACO will lose a handful of seniors to graduation but will return their three top scorers (Coble, Kissell and Horak) and four of their top five when you count Battle. The Warriors had a late spurt this season, winning four of their last five games before Thursday night?s district opener.
?It was really promising down the stretch,? Kissell said about his team?s late run. ?A lot of that was our senior leadership, and that?s the stuff you don?t see. Now we?re turning over a lot of our key players as far as scoring and rebounding. We?re really looking forward to continuing to develop, coming in this summer and putting in the time that we?ll need to get competitive in the South Division.?