The Mississinewa Indians are on a roll.
Their offense has been efficient. Their defense, game in and game out, has been spectacular.
They just keep winning.
Behind yet another stout defensive effort, despite a slow beginning, the Indians picked up their ninth win in a row last Tuesday evening, defeating the Wabash Apaches by a score of 68-48.
Mississinewa’s offense put up remarkable numbers once again, shooting 28-of-54 (51.8 percent) overall, 15-of-28 in the first half, and 13-of-26 after halftime. Everyone taking shots for the Indians knocked them down in recent games, and that trend continued against the Apaches.
“We’ve worked really hard as a coaching staff to let them know what’s a great shot,” Mississinewa Head Coach James Reed said. “We work on those shots in practice so when they get them in a game, it’s just [like] practice. They feel good about it. Their teammates feel good about them taking that shot) and belief can do a lot.”
Defensively, the Indians held Wabash to just 21-of-62 (33.8 percent) from the floor, which included a two-for-22 mark from the perimeter.
In their current win streak, together with their steady offensive production, they have been just as effective at keeping their opponents from putting the ball in the basket.
“Wabash is a team that can score a lot of points, and for us to hold keep them under 50, I was really proud of them,” Reed said. “That’s something we’ve challenged them [on]. Championship teams still take pride in their defense, and I felt like we did that, especially after the first quarter.”
Coming off their emotional conference triumph over Blackford, the Indians were a little sluggish to start. They answered with six straight points from Tai McClung, Landen Swanner, and Hayden Ulerick after Wabash opened the game with a bucket from Jared Holley, but some uncharacteristic, lackadaisical play on the defensive end of the floor in the first eight minutes kept the Apaches close.
After Mississinewa grabbed the lead, Wabash trimmed it down to two points on four separate occasions, but the Indians always had an answer, grabbing a 14-10 advantage at halftime.
In the second quarter, the Indians dusted off all the cobwebs – and quickly took over the contest.
An 11-4 run for Mississinewa to start the frame put them firmly in control, while their defense began to put the clamps on Wabash’s offense, forcing four turnovers in the frame and scoring a plethora of buckets in transition.
“We were a little rusty to start the game,” Reed said. “Defensively, especially. We got loose, we got out, and we weren’t rebounding very well. But then in the second quarter, they locked up [and] they really bought back into what we were doing. When their defense is that good, it just goes right into our offense, and that’s how we can score points quickly.”
Swanner and Anthony Horton helped to jumpstart Mississinewa’s offense in the second quarter. Horton, after scoring just four points in the opening frame, scored nine in the period, while Swanner finished with eight.
Together, the duo combined for 17 of the Indians’ 25 points in the second stanza.
“[Anthony] took over a little bit for three or four possessions, which took the air out of them a little bit,” Reed said. “Landen, of course, was hitting, and whenever Anthony and Landen are playing well, we are going to play well.”
While Holley finished with 17 points in the first half, Wabash’s four other starters were kept in check, combining for just six points as Mississinewa built a 14-point, 39-25 lead at halftime.
Mississinewa’s defense put their stamp on the game in the third quarter, In Wabash’s first four possessions, the Indians forced four straight turnovers and scored 11 straight points off of those giveaways.
From that moment, the Mississinewa defense took charge the rest of the way, not allowing the Apaches to cut their lead to any less than 17 points. The Indians lead by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter before settling for the 20-point triumph.
The Indians completely shut down the Apaches’ offense in the second half, holding them to just nine total field goals in 30 attempts.
“I think we had them frustrated because they had so much trouble finding their openings because our defense was so sound,” Reed said. “Then they were hurrying. We’ve worked really hard on closing out to shooters and getting hands up, and I think we hurried them up enough to take their good shooters out of rhythm. Once we took away all of the things they like to do, I feel like we rushed their shots.”
Swanner led the Indians with 20 points, while Horton finished the game with 19.
Ulerick, who has really thrived in Mississinewa’s few games, continued his strong play against the Apaches. The sophomore collected 10 points, eight of which came in the first half, and was effective on the glass with six rebounds. Ulerick, already a defensive maven on the perimeter, has really developed his offensive game in recent weeks, and as a result has become an important piece in the Mississinewa rotation.
“I’m just really proud of him,” Reed said of Ulerick. “His confidence has really grown these last two or games. He makes all the other parts work much better. The way he drives, and now, he is confident with his shot. I can’t wait to see what he becomes in the next few years.”
For Wabash, Holley led the way with 21 points, while Trent Daughtry finished with eight points and Eli VanderVelden added six.