By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The Waterloo boys basketball team’s season is only three games old, but they know who they are.
The Vikings have an identity and it is built around five playing as one.
Offensively, head coach Jason Wise knows his team’s success relies on sharing the basketball and having multiple players in double figures.
Defensively, Wise challenges his group to play team defense with communication.
In order any team to pull it all off, it takes trust.
Waterloo (2-1) had trust on display on Friday night during the team’s 58-42 non-league victory over rival host Rootstown.
On more than a few occasions, Waterloo’s half court offensive sets would conclude with layups that were the result of hard cuts with intent, but more importantly, created by trusted passes that were delivered with anticipation of players getting open.
Waterloo’s patient approach maximized scoring opportunities and value on possessions.
“We did a better job tonight, especially in the second half, of seeing our cutters and getting them the ball at the right time,” Wise said. “We trusted each other that we would be in the right spots, and I really thought we put the game away by getting into our sets, being patient and finding those cuts.
“We talk all the time that we do not want to be a shoot-off-the-dribble type of team,” Wise added. “We want to hit guys on cuts for layups.”
In Friday’s win, the Vikings had 17 assists on 27 made field goals. Senior Ryan Wise was the team leader with five assists, while Drew Flarida had four and Jackson Eichler and Navarre Alhassan had three each.
The scoring output they created matched Wise’s vision for the team with more than three in double-digit scoring.
Flarida led the team with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Flarida was relentless and got his points without too many sets designed specifically for him. He found his points in transition and on offensive putbacks.
“Drew plays hard on both sides of the floor. You can always count on that,” Wise said. “I just love his work ethic.”
Joining Flarida in double figures were Anthony Podojil (13 points), Alhassan (13) and Wise (10), with Wise also pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds and four steals.
Waterloo’s defense was not bad either.
The Vikings forced Rootstown into 26 turnovers and pressured the Rovers’ inexperienced backcourt into rushed decisions.
In what has been a recurring theme for the Rovers, when they are able to get to their shots, they shoot at a decent percentage. On Friday, they made 14-of-35 shots (40 percent). Too often on Friday, though, the turnovers impeded opportunities and Rootstown had 26 turnovers to 35 field-goal attempts.
“Their pressure got to us at times tonight, and we never got ourselves to a spot where we felt comfortable out there,” Rootstown head coach Cody Calhoun said. “They dictated play all game and it had us playing on our heels on both ends of the floor.”
Rootstown (0-6) was led in scoring by junior Brady Fillmore, who scored eight of his 10 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3s. Waterloo’s defense adjusted and held Fillmore to just two more field-goal attempts the rest of the game.
Ryan Piscitani had nine points and Cameron Mahone finished with points for the Rovers.
In many ways, the game turned midway through the second quarter.
With Rootstown hanging around and trailing just 21-18, the Vikings surged ahead and finished the first half on a 9-1 run that pushed Waterloo into the locker room with a 30-19 lead, which grew to 45-30 by the end of the third quarter.
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