On a cold and blustery night, the only thing warming the gym at Bartlett was the heat of the fans in attendance. Both teams shot under 40 percent and combined to hit just 2 of the 26 3-pointers they took.
With the Upstate Eight Valley Division up in the air, a win for either team would help them gain footing for a shot at the title. Unfortunately for the host Hawks, the ball did not bounce in their favor, falling to Waubonsie Valley 39-29 Friday night.
Bartlett (13-10, 3-5) struggled from the field all night, going scoreless in the first quarter and getting just 5 points before the halftime buzzer sounded.
"All the credit goes to Waubonsie Valley. They defended the hell out of us and forced us into quick shots," Hawks coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "When we did get good looks we didn't knock them down, when we got easy layups we didn't knock them down. Our offense in the first half wasn't clicking. We weren't setting good picks, letting Waubonsie push us off picks and cuts."
The trouble started early for both teams, as neither hit a shot until three minutes had passed in the first. Tyler Pauletti, who finished with 7 points, scored the first basket of the game for the Hawks in the second quarter around the 7 minute mark.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the Hawks had scored just 5 points in the second, but only found themselves down by 13 thanks to poor shooting by the Warriors.
"I thought defensively in the whole game we were solid. We did what we wanted to do defensively, taking out some of their stuff, except at the beginning of the second half when we let them get a little bit of a flow going," Wolfsmith said.
Offense did pick up for both teams in the second half, but Bartlett still had trouble getting that first basket. Ryan DiCanio, who had just 5 points and did not play in the fourth quarter along with the rest of the starters, made his final basket of the night with 6 minutes left in the third quarter, a stat that Waubonsie Valley coach Chaz Taft attributes to his player's hard work in practice.
"He's their best player. He has a chance to be conference player of the year in the Valley. Our main focus was him (in practice) and we played just real good sound defense."
The only player on the night to get into the double digits for points was senior Nick Karkazis for the Warriors, finishing with 11 points along with 2 assists and 3 rebounds.
Waubonsie Valley (13-7) had 7 different players score, but still shot only 36 percent from the field, but did hit 5 of 6 free-throws in the fourth quarter. Jay DeHaan had 8 points while teammates Matt Gialamas and Chris Karkazis had 6 each.
The win gives the Warriors a 5-3 record in the Valley Division and momentum heading into a showdown against rival Neuqua Valley at home on Tuesday.
"We came in saying that we needed to get this one. If we get this we're 5-3 in conference and it gives us confidence going against Neuqua Valley this week," said Warriors' coach Chaz Taft.
The Hawks, whose third loss in a row has sent them 2 games under .500 in the division, will have time to regroup before their next game at East Aurora on Feb. 6 and may have a new player in their rotation in Jordan Eagins. Eagins led the Hawks with 9 points, including 2 3-pointers, playing in the second half after the starters had failed to score in the game, with the exception of Ryan DiCanio.
"(Our third unit) played their (butts) off tonight. They ran their stuff they played good defense and moved their feet," Wolfsmith said. "Jordan can shoot and he's an athletic kid. He's gonna just get bigger and stronger and he did a lot of nice things."
Mike Ourth, another player Wolfsmith praised, finished with 6 points for the Hawks.