On Dec. 4, the Warsaw Wildcats came to town to take on the Bulldog boys’ basketball teams. Many Bulldog fans felt some trepidation as they knew the varsity team had recently lost to Warsaw by 38 points in their first match-up of the season on Nov. 29, but the Bulldog mood was about to change in a positive way. The hometown El Dorado crowd began to get excited when the High School pep band rocked the house blaring upbeat, classic rock. The chants and spirit of the EHS cheerleaders also helped set the stage for a good Bulldog night.
The JV Bulldogs took to the court first. Warsaw got the opening tip off and drove down the court and scored. The Wildcats then set up a strong press which, at first, made it difficult for the Bulldogs to get down court. Despite some nice ball handling by the Bulldogs, early turnovers allowed the Wildcats to take an early 0-6 lead.
After two minutes of play, freshman Blake Cluck put EHS on the board. Cluck said he was both surprised and excited to score the opening points. Showing his defensive skills as well, Cluck then forced a Warsaw turnover which allowed sophomore Ethan Morgan to score a three, taking the Bulldogs within one. Five minutes into the game, freshman Lance Molz made a three point shot tying the game, 8-8.
“I was really excited and surprised to hit the three. It seems like most of the time I can’t hit a three,” said Molz.
Sophomore point guard Jake Hillsman then stole the ball and made a layup putting the Bulldogs up by two. Warsaw scored, but freshman Landen Smith sank a basket putting the Bulldogs ahead 12-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Within the first quarter of play, Bulldog fans were aware that the coaching style of new EHS head coach Ryan Waters was very different than last year. During the first quarter alone, Coach Waters had 11 different EHS players take the court, subbing in and out with ease. He continued this tactic throughout both games, and the end result really paid off for the Bulldogs. Coach Waters explained that if the players work hard in practice, that he felt they deserved some amount of playing time whether big or small.
“At least they get a shot to help contribute to the team,” he said.
Warsaw came back strong in the second quarter scoring two unanswered baskets, but half way through the quarter, sophomore Jason Owsley scored, tying the game at 14.
Owsley said, “It felt good to tie up the game.”
Freshman Jakob Studer was fouled and easily sank a free throw. Studer went on to stuff his Wildcat opponent on the next play of the game. Continuing the positive momentum, Cluck scored from down low. The Wildcats turned up the heat on their press, which forced several Bulldogs turnovers. Studer responded by stealing the ball and scoring followed quickly by freshman Spencer Young sinking a free throw.
“I tried not to think too much about the shot so I wouldn’t freak out. I just wanted to make that shot,” Young said. Not to be outdone, the Wildcats made two shots, tying the score at 19. In the last seconds of the half, Warsaw edged ahead, 19-22.
After the half, the Bulldogs offense came out fighting. Cluck was the first to score followed by an impressive three-pointer by Morgan.
“It felt good to make my three point shots because the first game I played this season, I didn’t have a good night. I was glad I could help the team tonight,” Morgan said.
With help from 6’4” Wildcat Tommy Proctor, Warsaw then took control scoring nine unanswered points which allowed them to take a 24-31 lead. Ending the quarter, freshman Cody McNeece made two free throws followed by a basket by sophomore Jesse Spencer, which brought the Bulldogs within three.
After two minutes of play in the fourth quarter, and one Warsaw free throw, Hillsman came alive, sinking two free throws and another basket, to tie the score once again. Even though Hillsman contributed with points, he said he was disappointed that he hadn’t scored even more. Next, Owsley helped the Bulldogs take the lead by making a free throw which was quickly followed by a shot underneath the basket by McNeece.
“I like playing under the basket because I get the ball more and have the opportunity to score more points,” McNeece remarked.
Halfway through the quarter, the ball seemed like a hot potato with Smith stealing the ball, and Warsaw stealing it back. McNeece again stole the ball from the Wildcats only to have them return the favor a few seconds later. Not to be outdone, McNeece once again stole the ball, and one minute later Owsley made two free throws giving the Bulldogs a seven point lead. In the last minute of play, the Wildcats attempted several unsuccessful three pointers, but the Bulldog defense shut them down and took the 39-32 victory.
Smith remarked, “I thought our team played well defensively.” Jared Sutton agreed with Smith, “I think we improved a lot on defense this game.” Coach Waters said, “The JV team played much better. Our goal is to improve every day, and this was a step in the right direction.”
The JV team, consisting of mainly freshmen, worked hard to get the victory.
Freshman Walter Burk said, “Playing High School ball is much more challenging than Middle School ball. It is so much more intense.”
Fellow freshman Ronnie Bohrer added, “Playing in a High School is a lot more work, and it takes more determination.”
Tommie Hardy mentioned a few of his personal goals for the season, “I hope to help our team continue to win by improving rebounds, boxing out and finishing at the basket.”
The varsity teams then hit the hardwood. Sophomore Colten Hedrick got the tip off, but ElDo was unable to score on the opening drive. Having the height advantage and running a tough press, Warsaw took an early 0-9 lead. Two minutes into the game, the Bulldog offense came on strong with a scoring run by junior Heath Sutton with five points and new Bulldog sophomore Richard Lyness with two.
Sutton commented, “It felt good to score the first points of the game.”
Warsaw replied with a three point shot, but then junior Josh Girven and Lyness quickly hit twos which brought the Bulldogs within one, 11-12. Due to a bookkeeping error, the Bulldogs then received a technical foul which sent Warsaw to the line and allowed them to score two more before the quarter ended. With 20 seconds remaining in the quarter, junior Robert Keith scored bringing the Bulldogs back within one, 13-14.
Keith said, “It was exciting to help bring the team so close to beating the Warsaw team who just beat us so badly last week.”
Warsaw scored first in the second quarter, but junior Kyle Robertson, who was ill but still playing, came back and answered. Kyle acknowledged how hard it was to play when he was sick.
“Because I was sick it seemed like all my conditioning went down the drain, but I still tried to give it all I had,” Robertson said.
Warsaw got the next five points mainly due to EHS turnovers. With an assist by Robertson, Sutton scored. In the next Bulldog possession, Keith scored underneath the basket, making the score 19-25. Warsaw then scored twice, but Lyness quickly scored and was fouled during his shot. He easily made the extra point continuing an impressive Bulldog showing at the line. Both teams continued to score with the Bulldogs Robertson and Sutton each contributing. At half, Warsaw had the lead 26-34, but that did not stop the EHS crowd from showing their enthusiasm.
Principal David Hedrick said proudly, “Our team is showing a lot of improvement this game.”
The third quarter began with the Wildcats scoring seven unanswered points. The Bulldog offense then turned up the heat when Girven scored and made a free throw. Before Warsaw could recover, Lyness scored the next seven points. Lone EHS senior, Dustin Hall, made a basket followed by Lyness which put the Bulldogs within striking distance, 37-47. In the last half of the third quarter, the Wildcats put seven more points on the board while Hedrick, Girven, and Lyness put up six for the Bulldogs. At the end of the third quarter the Wildcats led 43-54.
The Bulldog offense struggled in the fourth quarter scoring only twice when Sutton made the first points of the quarter and freshman Jakob Studer made the last shot of the game.
“I was excited to score because those were my first varsity points,” Studer said.
Despite the Wildcat offense outscoring the Bulldogs in the final quarter, the EHS defense looked impressive, holding the Warsaw team to only nine points for the quarter. The final score showed a Bulldog loss of 47-63, but the hometown fans were impressed with the effort of the Bulldogs and the obvious improvement the team has already made this early in the season.
Coach Waters was pleased with his team’s improvement this game. “We were able to slow the ball down and have fewer turnovers, and because we had already played Warsaw we knew what they were going to do and that worked out well for us.”
Dustin Hall said, “As a team, we have already improved and we keep getting better.” Josh Girven added, “Our team played hard. We did good and we went to the hoop. I hope we keep playing even harder throughout the season.”
Heath Sutton summed up the night, “We came more prepared to play Warsaw this game. We had plays they didn’t expect and we made more rebounds.”
One of the biggest challenges the Bulldogs will face this season is simply overcoming their youth and inexperience at the varsity level. Coach Waters said he is trying to prepare his young team by making them work hard each day.
Colten Hedrick said, “Playing varsity means the game is more fast-paced with much bigger opponents. I have to adjust to how the game is played and how the refs call.”
Lyness, who played for NEVC last season, expressed his excitement for playing on the Bulldog team. “It seems like more of an accomplishment to play for a larger team,” he concluded.
Article contributed by the Canine Courier staff. The Canine Courier is the student newspaper produced by the EHS journalism class.
SUPERMAN FLIES HIGH – Sophomore Colten Hedrick makes a layup in the varsity game against Warsaw on Dec. 4. (Photo credit: Madison Sibley, Canine Courier staff)
DOWN THE COURT – -Freshman Lance Molz successfully breaks the Warsaw Wildcat press in the home game against Warsaw Dec. 4. (Photo credit: Sondi Hunter, Canine Courier staff)