WAYLAND — Winfield-Mt. Union sure didn’t make it easy on No. 2 WACO in the Class 1A District 8 quarterfinals on Thursday night. W-MU made WACO sweat all game-long, sticking right with the heavily-favored Warriors until the fourth quarter, when WACO scratched, clawed, survived and advanced to the semifinals.
W-MU came out of the gate red-hot. The Wolves hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter, three of which came off the finger tips of Jared Arnold, and led 16-9 after the first quarter.
“They knocked off West Burlington the other night doing the same thing,” said WACO head coach Paul Kissell. “We knew coming in that we had to recognize the shooters, and even though we knew who was shooting the ball, they still hit their shots.”
WACO’s defense held the Wolves to just three points in the second quarter, and the Warriors were able to tie the game at 19-19 before halftime, thanks to five points apiece from Drew Kissell and Pietro Vannini.
The two teams traded blows in the third. WACO turned to Nik Coble, who scored seven points in the third quarter after going scoreless in the first half, but W-WMU had five different players score. After three periods, it was still all knotted up, 30-30.
“I told them, there is no pressure on us here,” W-MU head coach Klay Edwards said. “Just come out, take care of the ball, be patient, and if you’ve got your shot, stick it.”
A Drew Kissell 3-point play gave WACO a 33-30 lead early in the fourth quarter. W-MU struck right back with a 3-pointer from Christian Gerot, but WACO scored the next five, a tiebreaking 3-pointer by Braden Hammond and a put-back by Gabe Reichenback, which put the Warriors up 38-33. WACO led by as much as nine points in the fourth quarter, and the Wolves never got it back within one possession.
Coble finished with 13 points to lead the Warriors. Kissell finished the night with 12.
“We’re definitely getting everyone’s best,” said Kissell, one of seven Warrior seniors. “We’ve just got to go out there and match that energy every night.”
Reichenbach scored 11 points in the win. Pietro Vannini finished the game with seven, and Hammond had three.
“Offensively in the first half we were trying to match them, shooting from outside and settling,” Coach Kissell said. “You could see in the second half, we were really focusing on Coble. Even though they were sagging off him and putting two guys on him, that was a senior post just deciding ‘You can’t stop me even with two guys.’”
W-MU was led by Arnold, who scored 12 points, all from the outside. Gerot had 10 points. Daunte Oepping scored seven. Ty Yocum had five, and Juanito Piper scored four.
“I told them in the locker room that I was super proud of them,” Coach Edwards said. “We went through a spell in the middle of the season where we just weren’t playing well, and we let some games get away that we probably should have won. Then we started kind of catching on again at the end of the year, beat a really good West Burlington team. Didn’t play our best against Junction but found a way to pull away in that one. To come out here and play against the best team in Southeast Iowa is, you know … I’m super proud of them.”
WACO moves on to play New London in the district semifinals on Tuesday night. That game will be at 6:30 p.m., with Notre Dame and Pekin following.