CONTROLLING THE COUNTY - Warriors reel in rivalry win against Wright City


Warrenton's Sam Toenges dribbles around Wright City's JJ McRoberts as Wildcats Coach Ryan Benz looks on during the Warriors' season-opening 69-62 win last Friday.
By: 
Brandon Corrigan

WARRENTON - While winter weather may have wiped out last year’s cross-county clash, the Warriors boys basketball team managed to pick up right where it left off in the rivalry – with a victory.
As host Warrenton defeated Wright City 69-62 in Friday’s season opener, which drew a large, loud and hoops-hungry crowd from both sides of Warren County.
It’s Warrenton’s fourth consecutive win over the Wildcats and 14th in the last 16 meetings.
The Warriors had won the last three by an average of 30 points and this one had the makings of another blowout but a resilient Wright City squad cut a deficit that reached 21 points early in the fourth quarter to single digits by the time the final buzzer hit.
“I’m glad we came out on top, but we weren’t able to run our stuff the way we really wanted to,” said Warrenton Coach Mark Thomas, who enters his third year at the helm. “Wright City, to their credit, just kept attacking, and kept attacking. It was their strong effort that kept them around in the ballgame. If they keep playing that hard they’ll be a tough team to go against later in the year.”
Strong shooting from behind the arc got the Warriors rolling in the early going. Senior guard Travis Toebben put the hosts up for good when he knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 14-13 at the close of the opening period.
Toebben drained another trey to start the second, which was also the start of a downward spiral for the Wildcats, whose sloppy play got them stuck in a 44-30 hole at intermission.
“The final score looks a little better than the one at halftime, that’s for sure,” Wright City Coach Ryan Benz said. “Warrenton was just shooting lights out. I don’t know what the actual percentage was but it seemed like 85 percent. And we were forcing up quick shots on the first look and weren’t able to get in any type of flow.
“Last year we had a problem where we’d forget how to play basketball for a little bit and have that one bad quarter. And I don’t know if it was jitters because of the cross-country rivalry but it happened again tonight. But minus that second quarter I’m really pleased with how we played.”
The Wildcats (0-1) shot 34 percent from the floor and were paced by seniors JJ McRoberts and Dillon Seabaugh, who scored 15 points apiece. Forward Kyle Johnson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, added 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks off the bench, doing most of his damage in the fourth. Junior guard Branden Contreras had a rough shooting night (2-for-12) but a strong overall performance with seven points, four rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Toebben led the Warriors, who finished 9-17 last year, with a game-high 22 points. Sam Toenges, a 6-foot-3 second team all-conference selection last year, had 20 and fellow senior Brett Smith had 18. All three landed double-digits by halftime.
“I was proud of the way Travis shot the ball,” Thomas said. “Sam attacked well and Brett did a great job of handling the ball. Those are our guys with experience and the guys we need to carry and lead us. Aside from them we’re not very experienced and some guys on our roster haven’t played high school basketball before.
“Obviously it’s early but there’s a lot to work on. We want to play fast and smart but tonight we were missing the smart aspect. It’s going to take time to iron things out and get everyone on the same page, but we can get there if we stay focused, listen and make better decisions.”
Up next for Warrenton (1-0) is the Winfield Tip-Off Classic. The Warriors are seeded sixth in the eight-team tournament and play No. 3 Ft. Zumwalt East this Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The Warrenton/East winner plays the victor between No. 2 Timberland and the No. 7 St. Louis Knights in the semifinals on Thursday at 8 p.m. The championship is slated for Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2:30 p.m.
No. 1 O’Fallon Christian plays No. 8 Elsberry and No. 4 Winfield takes on No. 5 Lutheran St. Charles in the other opening round matchups.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS
11/21/19: Warriors 69, Wildcats 62 at Warrenton
11/17/17: Warriors 74, Wildcats 45 at Warrenton
1/24/17: Warriors 63, Wildcats 34 at Hermann Tournament
11/18/16: Warriors 60, Wildcats 27 at Wright City
1/29/15: Wildcats 47, Warriors 41 at Hermann Tournament

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