By DOUG ZALESKI
With IHSAA sectional play a little more than a week away, Wapahani and Yorktown came out of their intra-county boys basketball battle Saturday feeling they were put through a situation that could mimic the pressure they might face in tournament play.
Wapahani led throughout the second and third quarters, but Yorktown battled back to tie the score early in the fourth quarter as a large crowd watched on homecoming in the Wapahani gym.
Ultimately the Raiders prevailed for a 46-37 victory, but both coaches had a positive assessment of how their teams handled the situation.
“It was a sectional type, county tournament type of game,” Wapahani coach Matt Luce said. “We can’t draw up the right play for them. You’re in your 19th or 20th game of the year and not every set play is going to work. (Players) had to make the right plays, and Yorktown was taking things away.
“Our players won the game. We tried to put them in the right spot and try to teach them to be tough and unselfish. The players made enough plays to win the game.”
Yorktown fell behind 16-11 as Wapahani scored the first five points of the second quarter. The Tigers (10-11) trailed until Luke Dunn hit a 3-point shot to tie the score 30-30 with 7:45 remaining in the game.
“We’ve been doing this all year … getting down and coming back,” Tigers coach Matt Moulton said. “In years past, it was fold the tent time. But we’ve never given up. It didn’t surprise me when we came back.
“At 30-30 you think you have a chance to steal one on the road. … Seniors make big plays, and give (Wapahani) credit, their seniors made big plays and got the victory.”
The Raiders (16-4) responded to Yorktown’s threat by taking control immediately after the score was tied.
In less than a 5-minute span, Wapahani got two 3-point baskets from Evan Rausch, a 3-pointer and a 15-foot jumper from Drew Luce and a steal that Tre Spence converted into a breakaway layup. That helped the Raiders build a 43-34 lead with just 2:51 to play.
“Our guys care about the team,” Luce said. “We have two or three guys off the bench that all they worry about is rebounding and playing defense and finding a way to help our team.
“In two weeks on a Friday night in Alexandria (in sectional play) we’re hoping our guys take these difficult situations and make plays.”
Moulton was pleased overall with his team’s effort, but would have liked it to take better care of the ball. He estimated the Tigers made about 15 turnovers.
“The turnovers reared their ugly head, but you have to give credit to Wapahani because they had something to do with that,” he said. “But we’re moving forward and I feel decent about tonight outside of the turnovers. You want to keep them under 10. If we have five or six more possessions the score is closer.”
Wapahani’s balanced scoring was paced by Luce’s 15 points. Rausch had 13 and Spence added 12.
Dunn was Yorktown’s leader with 21 points.
Both teams will finish the regular season next week, and sectional action starts the week of March 2.
Wapahani is at Centerville on Feb. 25 and plays at home against Class 2A No. 1 Shenandoah on Feb. 28. Yorktown is at home Feb. 28 against Mount Vernon.