It’s good to finally be home.
After opening up their schedule with three straight games on the road, the Waunakee boys’ basketball team played in their home opener Friday evening. The Warriors took advantage of a hot night behind the arc, pulling away from Beaver Dam late in the second half to secure the victory.
Beaver Dam 64
Coming out of halftime, both teams were tied at 32. The Golden Beavers led by as many as nine points – 24-15 after 11 minutes of play – but a concerted effort to find the paint saw the Warriors claw their way back to even by the time the two teams went into the locker room.
Andrew Keller was particularly effective in Waunakee’s late first-half run, accounting for seven of the team’s 12 points in the final four minutes leading up to the break.
“In the first half, we were taking all those shots from distance,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Dana MacKenzie. “At halftime, we wanted to stress an inside-out game.”
Their inside-out game resulted in a drought from beyond the arc early on in the second half, but the combination of Waunakee’s post game and steady work from the free throw line allowed them to hold a narrow 50-47 lead midway through the half.
From there, Waunakee caught fire. Four of their next five field goals were from beyond the arc, capped by a pair of threes from Jaxson Zibell to put the Warriors up 67-59 with just over two minutes to play.
Zibell paced the Warriors with 17 points, nine of which came from three-pointers. A total of six Warrior players drained a three in the game, led by Zibell and Caden Hough with three apiece.
“We had to use the post to make those easier shots,” MacKenzie added. “When it comes from the inside-out, those usually go in; that’s where we got most of them in the second half.”
Beaver Dam was never able get closer than five points from there on out, and Waunakee pulled away to secure the 76-64 win.
“Beaver Dam’s a really good team. For us to hang around, keep fighting, and pull away at the end says a lot about our guys…” said MacKenzie. “Our guys battled. [Caden Nelson] is still fighting his way back; he finally got into the scorebook with an and-one.”
Five Waunakee players finished in double figures on the night; behind Zibell’s 17 points were Keller with 16, Hough with 13, Drew Regnier with 11 and Jake May with 10.
“I would hope that would be who we are,” said MacKenzie when asked if a balanced attack is to be a calling card of this team. “A bunch of guys that work hard and are unselfish and care about the W more than stats. I think we’ve got that with these guys.”
Nelson, Aidan Driscoll and Jack Dotzler rounded out the scoring with three points apiece.
With the win, Waunakee improves their record to 4-0 (2-0) Badger North. The Warriors hit the road again for their next contest, when they’ll head to Baraboo on Tuesday to take on the Thunderbirds. Tip time at Baraboo High School is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.