In a game perhaps best classified as “a win is a win is a win,” the Stockton Tigers opened the 2019-20 basketball season with a 40-29 nonconference victory over the Warsaw Wildcats, Tuesday, Nov. 26, at home.
Both teams struggled offensively early, with nearly four minutes elapsing before the first points went on the scoreboard on a putback by Stockton senior Drew Wheeler.
Tiger coach Derald Henderson said his team, which starts two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman, struggled at times getting into the flow of the offense.
“It’s the first game with a lot of young players,” Henderson said. “We knew coming in we were going to make mistakes. We’re still figuring out schemes and we’re still figuring out what people are going to be able to do.
“We want to get the ball in the short corner and the high post. We can get it there, but we really didn’t make plays out of it. So then we had to resort to different ways of beating a zone and it gets difficult after that. We’ve got to find a better way of making plays out of those two spots against the zone.
“I thought defensively we guarded really well. We made it tough on them. But they played well and we didn’t play very good. We couldn’t make plays in spots where we needed to make plays.”
A surprising statistic came in three-point shooting, with the Tigers going a combined 4-for-17 from downtown. The Wildcats were 4-of-21 from behind the arc. “We’ve got to figure out how to make plays out of that or we’ll never be successful against the zone,” Henderson said.
Possibly the biggest difference came at the charity stripe, where Stockton made 14 of 24 free throws compared to 7 of 22 for Warsaw.
Down the stretch, the physicality between the teams slowly escalated. Late in the game, Warsaw senior Lane Bates was called for an offensive foul, his fifth. Stockton sophomore Layne Colvin reacted to the official’s call but was hit with a technical foul, his fifth as well.
“That’s just how varsity basketball is,” Henderson said. “They’re going to push, and it’s a physical game and it should be. Our boys have to understand and adjust to that. We’re going to improve based on playing stronger, more physical players, so that’s a good thing for us to see. We need to get in that environment because that’s something that’s going to give us problems. We’re young, we’ve got to be tough and we’ve got to be strong with the ball.”
Wheeler, the only player to reach double figures, led all scorers with 24 points. Trey Palmer paced the Wildcats with seven.
Stockton next plays Pleasant Hope at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, in the first round of the Dennis Cornish Classic at Lockwood. The Tigers are seeded fourth in the eight-team tournament.
Warsaw (0-1) 2 12 7 8—29
Stockton (1-0) 10 7 13 10—40
Warsaw: Trey Palmer 7, Tristan Reynolds 6, Zach Chapman 5, James Kellner 5, Lane Bates 4, George Montez 2.
Stockton: Drew Wheeler 24, Cole Garretson 6, Jay Baxter 6, Layne Colvin 3, Braden Postlewait 1.
3-point goals: Chapman, Palmer 2, Kellner, Colvin, Wheeler 3.