By BRYAN GASKINS
---- — Evan Warden cemented a spot in Western High School’s athletic history in 2012 by helping the Panther baseball team win the Class 3A state championship.
Warden nailed down another spot Friday night when he became the fifth member of the Western boys basketball program’s 1,000-point club.
The senior guard entered Western’s regular-season finale at Tipton with 996 career points. He nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter to reach the milestone. He ended up with 15 points in the Panthers’ 78-75, triple-OT victory over the Blue Devils.
Warden said it felt good to reach the milestone.
“All season, people have been telling me I was on track or they’d let me know where I was at each and every game. I just tried to put it in the back of my mind and play my game, just keep playing the same way. I said it if comes, it’s meant to be, and [Friday] was the night it was supposed to happen,” he said.
Warden had to shake off a slow start against the Blue Devils. He missed all five of his attempts from the field in the first half.
“I’ve had games like that before,” he said. “My teammates were playing great. I feel like I slowed them down a little bit with the way I was playing. I took a few bad shots, missed a few shots. I had to get it together and play for them like they were playing for me.”
Warden came back to make 5 of 8 attempts over the remainder of the game. He drilled a 3-pointer at 3:57 mark of third quarter to crack the scoring column. He added another triple at the 1:37 mark of the quarter to eclipse the 1,000-point mark.
“It’s a fantastic thing for a kid who’s worked as hard as Evan has for us for the past four years to reach this milestone of 1,000 points,” said Western coach Bart Miller, who is in his second season as the Panthers’ skipper after a long run as an assistant to Andy Weaver.
“Evan is a special kid — on the court and off the court, he is a real competitor, a really nice kid who will do just about anything we ask of him. He scored these 1,000 points within the realm of our offenses playing for coach Weaver and for myself. It’s a great accomplishment for a fine young man.”
Warden had another memorable 3-pointer later in Friday’s game. With Western trailing by four, he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with :18.5 left in regulation. He hit the free throw to forge a 62-all tie and force overtime. Western went on to win in a triple-OT barn-burner.
Warden has been a part of a lot winning with the Panthers. As a freshman, he scored 5.5 points per game off the bench, helping the Panthers post a 19-5 record and win Mid-Indiana Conference and Class 3A sectional championships. As a sophomore, he was the No. 2 scorer (11.5 ppg) on a team that went 19-6 and won conference and sectional titles. As a junior, he was the leading scorer (13.8 ppg) on a 13-9 squad.
“Making a run in the tournament my freshman year was awesome,” Warden recalled.
Warden played a big role in that run. He exploded for 18 points in a 69-65 upset of Gary Lew Wallace and McDonald’s All-American Branden Dawson in a regional semifinal. He had 17 points in a 54-52 loss to Culver Academy in the regional final.
Now a senior, he is the No. 2 scorer (15.2 ppg) on a 13-6 squad. Junior Des Balentine (21.1 ppg) teams with Warden to form a KT All-Area backcourt.
“Me and Des have been playing together for as far back as we can remember,” Warden said. “We played on the same team for AAU travel ball. We know each other so well, we know exactly what we’re going to do. Our chemistry is from the way we’ve grown up together. We’re like brothers. I feel like that helps big time when we’re playing.”
Warden will lead the Panther baseball team in the spring. As a sophomore, he was one of the leaders of the Class 3A state championship squad. In the Panthers’ 8-1 victory over Brebeuf Jesuit in the state title game, Warden went 2-for-4 at the plate, driving in two runs and scoring a run. He pitched two innings of scoreless relief to seal the Panthers’ first state title in a boys team sport.
Warden has a passion for baseball — he is a Morehead State recruit. Some in his position might consider focusing on just baseball, but he is a proud two-sport athlete.
“I don’t ever drop a sport,” he said. “If I’ve dedicated myself to playing for this team, I’m going to practice and work just like I will for baseball. I’m not going to half-way play basketball. I’m committed to this team. I wouldn’t expect anyone to come on a team and slow down because it’s not their main sport. I still do baseball on the side, work at it just as hard, but with basketball, I prepare for it and I go just as hard.”
Western boys 1,000-point club Player Class Points Josh Nelson 2003 1,308 Wes Dickinson 2007 1,286 Alan Davidson 2003 1,197 Rick Pearson 1976 1,053 Evan Warden 2014 1,011+ + Active