MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- Wabash Valley College head men's basketball coach Mike Carpenter had to pleased with what he saw on Wednesday night.
His Warriors performed exceptionally well, performing 'some of their best basketball' they've played all year in the first half against Rend Lake in the Warriors' 91-81 victory over Rend Lake in a Pink Out Night at Wabash Valley College.
The Warriors were donning pink WVC warmups as the readied for the game. They came out of the gate a little slow, but bounced back well with a 6-0 run to get back in control. Sophomore Josh Thomas played the passing lane and forced a steal early in the first half. Thomas raced it up the floor and lobbed it up to sophomore Chucky Wilson for a highlight worthy dunk to make it 15-10.
Even still, Rend Lake rallied back and closed the deficit to 20-19.
WVC saw some really solid contributions out of their bigs tonight, especially sophomore Levi Cook and freshman Amir Yusuf. The two showcased some exceptional post moves and smooth range as they used their height advantage and helped the Warriors go on a 30-11 run, taking a 50-30 lead with two minutes remaining in the half.
"From Levi, to Amir, to Big Ant, to Justin, they can do that every night," WVC assistant coach Cornelius Walker spoke of the Warrior bigs. "It all depends on how they approach the game and what the matchup is, who's guarding them. For the most part we look to remain balanced. We look to get inside, we look to get our guards going as well. Tonight was a night for Levi and some of our bigs because they were an undersized team. That's why our rebounding stands out and that's why our bigs were very active."
Much to coach Carpenter's dismay, the Warriors didn't close strong in the remaining two minutes. They allowed Rend Lake to get it back to within 15, as they took a 52-37 lead to the break.
Wabash Valley did a good job of keeping a pesky Rend Lake team at bay in the second half, not allowing Rend Lake to get it to single digits and keeping the lead within the teens for remainder of the second half.
"We knew they were going to continue to fight," coach Walker said. "Our guys have to buckle down and remember that. At this point, second half of the season, guys are going to give us their best, all of the time. We have to buckle down and try to extend the lead. We go up five, go up 10, we go up 10, let's go up 15. If we continue to do that even late in the game, we'll be fine. But for the most part, every team from here on out is going to give us their best. We have to make sure we play the full 40 minutes."
With the Warriors in control, coach Carpenter had the opportunity to allow his reserves to get some action. One reserve, Tanner McFall capitalized on his late game action, scoring seven points and posting a nice transition dunk.
The Warriors saw four scorers reach double-digits. Thomas with 14 points, Cook with 13, sophomore Anthony Christian with 13 points and eight boards and sophomore Zion Morgan with 10 points and five assists. Yusuf and freshman Tony Burks each came just shy of double-digits. Yusuf finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes of action, while Burks posted eight points and five boards in 14 minutes. Rend Lake's Rodley Adjei finished with 23 points on the night.
"Just locking in, listening to the coaches, they're basically telling me to go hard," Yusuf spoke of what worked for him tonight. "If I go hard everything comes easier really."
Now victors of 13 of their last 15, the Warriors will host Lake Land coming up on Saturday. The two teams faced off back on Jan. 9, where the Warriors edged the Lakers in a 94-91 overtime thriller. With the Warriors on a roll of late, it'll be interesting how much changes in the second meeting between the two teams.
"Kids are playing with confidence, we're sharing the ball, we're moving the ball," coach Carpenter said. "We just have to clean up some things and do a better job because Saturday's going to be a much better opponent. They beat Rend Lake by 21 last week. Saturday will be a good test for us against Lake Land's who's playing a lot better as well and should be a fun atmosphere, fun environment on Saturday."
Tip-off for the game on Saturday is slated for 6 p.m. It'll be Sophomore Night for the Warriors, as they honor their sophomores.
WVC - 52 39 -- 91
RL - 37 44 -- 81