Warren uses big first half to down Washington
VINCENT — It goes without saying that every high school basketball team wants to play its very best basketball come tournament time.
To say that Warren played its best ball of the season in Thursday evening’s Division II sectional championship game at home against Washington would be a major understatement as the top-seeded Warriors opened the game on a 28-0 run and never looked back en route to a dominating 67-19 victory.
The Warriors knocked down 11 of 15 first-quarter shots and forced the visitors into 11 opening period turnovers as they put the game and the sectional championship out of reach in a hurry.
“We knew we had a game like this in us and that’s the way we expect to play,” said Warren head coach Blane Maddox. “We played well and shot well from the beginning and just did and awesome job tonight.”
Joel Chevalier got things rolling for WHS with a field goal and fellow senior Kurt Taylor followed with an old fashioned three-point play followed by a 3-pointer from behind the arc to make it an 8-0 game.
Senior Seth Dennis knocked down the second of what would be three first quarter triples for the Warriors before Chevalier came up with a steal and bucket in transition to push the lead to 13.
Chevalier’s 3-pointer later in the period pushed the run and lead to 24 and junior Brayden Sallee capped the huge start with back-to-back field goals to give Warren a football-like 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“I’m not sure we can play any better than that but we have shown spurts like this all year long,” said Maddox, whose team improvd to 15-3 with the win. “We’ve talked about all season that we have got to peak at the end…just the circumstances of which we’ve been through we want to be peaking at the right time to get to the places that we want to go,”
The Blue Lions finally got on the board to open the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Tanner Lemaster but the Warriors continued to dominate as they scored the final 18 points of the first half to head to the intermission with a hefty 46-3 lead.
Warren shot a blistering 63% (17 of 27) from the floor in the first 16 minutes while turning the ball over just three times compared to 20 by Washington, which struggled mightily against the Warren pressure defense.
“We have played great defense like that against some really good teams this year,” said Maddox of his team’s impressive defensive performance. “We’ve showed it now we have got to do it throughout this tournament and we have the capability to hold some teams down.”
The Warriors started their regulars in the third period but Maddox yanked them quickly after the lead swelled to 51-3 allowing Warren to empty their bench and get quality minutes for all 15 kids on their roster.
Taylor ended up leading the way for Warren with 15 points while Chevalier added 10.
Sallee scored all eight of his points in the first quarter while pulling down a game-high eight rebounds. Seniors Dennis and Josh Welch added seven points apiece.
The Blue Lions, whose season comes to a close with a 3-14 record, were paced by John Wall with six points and Micai Claggett with four.
Warren will open district play at home next Thursday night against New Lexington.
“We are just going to keep taking it one game at a time and we sure are looking forward to next Thursday against New Lexington,” said Maddox. “There’s no place like home.”