GASTON, IND - Before Saturday’s contest between Wes-Del and Eastern Hancock, there was a special moment of silence at Wes-Del Junior/Senior High School. It was held for Lindsay Locker, an Eastern Hancock senior cheerleader who passed away in a car accident on Sunday, Nov. 26.
At that moment, the last thing on Warriors’ first-year head coach Josh Burkett’s mind was the game his team was about to partake in.
“When this stuff happens in high school, it’s heartbreaking,” Burkett said. “It was important that we had that moment of silence for [Locker] and the Eastern Hancock community.”
When it came to the game, the Warriors were looking to find the win column after falling to Union City in their last home game. During the first few minutes of the contest, it seemed the Warriors had the momentum as they jumped out to a 14-8 lead.
“We should have kept extending that lead,” Wes-Del junior Josiah Love said.
However, that is when things started to go wrong for the Warriors (2-2) and right for the Royals (2-1). Instead of getting a win, Wes-Del fell 54-46.
“In the first half, we jumped on [the Royals],” Burkett said. “But we did not do a very good job of going at them.”
Both competitors had size sprinkled throughout their rosters, but the difference in the match was Eastern Hancock’s aggression. Eastern Hancock junior Kayden Ruble led all scoring with 19 points. The Royals’ starting center was a threat in the paint on both sides of the ball.
If he had the ball, most of those positions ended in successful layups. If a Warrior tried to score on him, that attempt commonly concluded with a steal or a block.
“This was a physical game and it was physical on both sides,” Burkett said. “We weren’t going at them. The second half was a bit better and I feel like it evened things out.”
Yet the change of play style did not give Wes-Del an advantage. The second half was a back-and-forth battle that had the crowd on their feet. However, this is when the Warriors made some crucial mistakes.
For starters, their shot selection was not the best. During the final few minutes of the contest, multiple Warriors took shots that left Burkett scratching his head.
“It was all about execution,” Wes-Del junior Gabe Becerra said. “We had some defensive stops, but some of our turnovers turned into their points.”
Another issue was the Warriors’ play style. While Wes-Del attempted to play it safe and hold a lead, the Royals went at them with everything they had.
“They had a reason to go straight at us,” Becerra said. “We were conservative with lead and had the mindset of ‘we got this.”
That ideology did not last as the Royals took a five-point lead with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. After that, the Warriors continued to make poor shot selections and struggled from the free-throw line. In the end, both teams were identical from the foul line, going 5-for-12 (41.6 percent).
In the loss, Love led Wes-Del with 17 points. He was followed by Becerra, who added nine. After the game, the Warriors came out of the locker room with disappointed faces. Yet Burkett believes the game will help them improve in certain spots.
“[We just] need to understand the time and when to score,” he said. “We need to work the ball so that we can take shots that put pressure on [our opponents].”
The Warriors will be back in action when they travel to face Union (1-2) on Dec. 8. The game will start at 6 p.m.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @ZachCarter85.