Warriors battle tough but come up short against Howell Central

By: 
Brandon Corrigan

WARRENTON - If the basketball Gods offered the Warriors six wins after their first 10 games at the start of the season, Coach Mark Thomas likely would have been down for the deal.
That’s where they stand currently, but win No. 7 was at least within reach during Tuesday’s 52-44 setback against Francis Howell Central.
Staying within arm’s length of the Spartans the majority of the way, Warrenton made a late push and made it a one-possession game with just under three minutes remaining before finally succumbing to the visitors from St. Charles.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Thomas said. “They worked their butts off, went through some adversity and battled the entire game.”
It was knotted at 14 after a quarter and Warrenton trailed 26-23 at intermission and 38-33 heading into the fourth.
Central built its first double-digit lead of the night at 47-37 midway through the final period before the Warriors got to work on a rally.
Sophomore forward Joseph Evans was the chief initiator. He made a presence in the paint with back-to-back buckets and knocked down a free throw after being fouled on the latter to cut the host’s deficit to 47-44.
An illegal screen by the Spartans gave the Warriors the ball with a chance to knot it up in the last two minutes, but the visitors took back possession on a traveling call and made enough shots from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the deal.
Some confusion by the officials also added some increased difficulty to the Warriors’ comeback attempt.
A surprised Travis Toebben, who wears No. 2, had to exit the game early after receiving his fifth personal foul in the fourth. Thomas argued with officials that Toebben wasn’t involved in any sort of contact on the play and that the foul should have been given to Kolby Meine (No. 20), but Thomas’ plea was rebuffed.
“It isn’t good when you can’t tell the difference between two kids because (they have similar) haircuts,” Thomas said. “No. 2 was on the other end of the court and No. 20, who committed the foul, was right underneath the basket where it happened. I was hoping that (the officials) would get together and correct it because that forced us to put one of our best ballhandlers on the bench.
“But we didn’t shoot the ball really well and we came out a little flat at the start of the second half with a bunch of turnovers. That was the name of the game really because it gave (Central) a cushion that was too much for us to handle. If we don’t commit all the turnovers, who knows?”
Senior point guard Brett Smith, who scored a combined 49 points in his previous two games, finished with a team-high 18 points Tuesday.
Toebben knocked down three 3-pointers for his nine points. Sam Toenges scored seven points and Chase Cook added a two-point field goal in the second quarter.
Evans was 4-for-5 from the charity stripe and scored seven of his eight points in the fourth.
“We’ve worked him into the varsity lineup a little more and he’s coming up big,” Thomas said. “He’s an athletic sophomore who’s going up strong at the rim and hitting some free throws. He really performed like a varsity player tonight so we’ll just keep bringing him right along.”
Central junior guard Myles Estrada, who’s hit the 30-point mark once this season, had a game-high 19 points and added five assists. Gabe Dickerson had 11 points and Tyree Jackman contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
The Spartans connected on 15-of-19 free throws, outrebounded Warrenton 32-19 and improved to 4-5 overall.
The Warriors, of Class 4, had a two-game win streak snapped with their fourth loss. Three of them, including Tuesday’s, have come against larger Class 5 opponents.
They’ll look to get back on track and grab their first Gateway Athletic Conference North victories of the campaign when they visit St. Charles Friday and Orchard Farm Tuesday.
The Pirates are 6-6 overall with a 1-1 league mark, while the Eagles, winners of six straight, are 8-2 and have yet to play a conference game.

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