MIDDLEBURY — It took nearly a perfect game and a perfect shot, but the Northridge boys basketball team found a way to beat Warsaw on Friday, Jan 10.
And that's all that matters.
Junior guard Pete Smith hit a teardrop 8-foot jumper in the lane at the final buzzer — with two Warsaw players in his face — to give the Raiders an exciting 58-56 victory over Warsaw in front of a big home crowd.
“We really didn't have a set play at the end, we just wanted to be going towards the basket and not settle for an outside jumper,” Northridge coach Ronnie Thomas said. “They did a good job defensively, but Pete was able to get into the lane and then hit a very tough shot.”
The win improved Northridge's record to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference, while the Tigers fell to 7-3 and 1-1.
Smith was tremendous all evening for the Raiders, finishing eight-of-eight from the field — including two 3-pointers — and scoring 19 points.
“The difference in the game was Pete Smith,” Warsaw coach Doug Ogle said. “I thought we played well and did a lot of things right, but Smith just beat us. When you only turn the ball over three times and shoot 57 percent from the field, you don't expect to lose, but that's what happened to us tonight.”
Smith's heroics capped a great comeback for the Raiders, who trailed 21-6 early and 23-10 at the end of the first quarter. Warsaw junior forward Rashaan Jackson looked unstoppable in the first eight minutes, scoring 15 minutes on 6-of-6 shooting.
Meanwhile, Northridge All-State candidate Nate Ritchie was held to just one point in the opening quarter.
But with Ritchie leading the way, the Raiders clawed back into the game in the second quarter, pulling to within just four points at halftime.
“I told the kids that we had weathered the storm and really fought to get back in it,” Thomas said. “We didn't make a lot of changes, we just guarded them a little closer and hit a few more shots. But getting that close that quickly was a big part of this win.”
A basket by Sam Ahonen and a 3-pointer by Ritchie opened the second half and gave Northridge it's first lead since the opening minute. Ritchie scored eight points in the third quarter — to go with 10 in the second — and the Raiders entered the final eight minutes with a 46-40 lead.
A rebound basket by Ritchie with 2:32 to play in the game gave Northridge a solid 54-47 lead and it looked like the Raiders had finally put Warsaw away.
But an old fashioned three-point play by Tiger sophomore guard Paul Marandet cut the lead to four, before a 3-pointer from Jordan Stookey made it 54-53 at the 1:49 mark. After a steal by Marandet, Jackson was fouled going to the basket and his two free throws with 1:07 left to play gave the lead back to Warsaw.
“I was proud of the way our kids didn't panic in the fourth quarter and fought back,'' Ogle said. “To go from down seven to take the lead in less than two minutes was great, I just wish we could have finished it.''
Tom Morrison's jumper gave the lead back to the Raiders with 0:44 on the clock, before Marandet hit one of two free throws 10 seconds later to tie the game at 56 and set the stage for Smith's heroics.
Northridge is now tied for the NLC lead with Elkhart Memorial and NorthWood. The Raiders will travel to Nappanee next Frday, Jan. 17, to face the Panthers.
“There is a long way to go in the conference, but this is the kind of game you have to win,'' Thomas said. “You have to be able to defend your homecourt and then be prepared to fight like crazy on the road. I tip my cap to Warsaw, they played a great game and we had to match their intensity to win.''
Northridge also had to match the Tigers offensively and did them just a little better, hitting 64 percent from the field and seven-of-10 from 3-point range.
Ritchie led Northridge with 21 points, while Smith was the only other Raider in double figures.
Jackson played a great game for the Tigers, scoring a game-high 26 points — although he had just four in the middle two quarters when Northridge made its run. He was the only Warsaw player in double figures.
“Ritchie is a tough matchup for anyone because of his ability to hit the outside jumpers while he's also big enough to take the ball hard inside,'' Ogle said. “When you have both Ritchie and Smith playing well, you can see why Northridge is 9-1. If we see them again in the sectional, we'll have to find a way to deal with them a little better.''
Northridge 58, Warsaw 56
Warsaw — Rashaan Jackson 9-13 5-7 26, Paul Marandet 1-1 3-5 5. Nate Pearl 3-6 0-0 8, Jake Mangas 3-5 0-0 6, Jordan Stookey 4-10 0-2 9, Peyton Long 0-0 0-0 0,Tim Swanson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 21-37 (.568) 8-14 (.571) 56.
Northridge — Pete Smith 8-8 1-2 19, Nate Ritchie 7-13 3-4 21, Sam Ahonen 3-6 0-0 6, Kurtis Hochstetler 1-3 0-0 3, Tom Morrison 3-5 0-0 7, Colllin Utley 1-1 0-0 2, Payton Carson 0-0 0-0 0, Christian Bach 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-36 (.639) 5-8 (.625) 58.
Scoring By Quarters
Warsaw 23 9 8 26 — 56
Northridge 10 18 18 12 — 58
3-point goals: Warsaw (6-14) — Jackson 3-5, Pearl 2-5, Stookey 1-3; Northridge (7-10) — Ritchie 3-4, Smith 2-2, Hochstetler 1-1, Morrison 1-3.
Rebounds: Warsaw (17) — Jackson 6; Northridge (17) — Ritchie 5.
Assists: Warsaw (14) — Stookey 8; Northridge (8) — Utley 4.
Steals: Warsaw (5) — Pearl 3; Northridge (2) — Smith, Ritchie.
Turnovers: Warsaw 3, Northridge 9.
Fouls: Warsaw 10, Northridge 15.
Records: Northridge 9-1 (2-0 NLC), Warsaw 7-3 (1-1).
Next: Northridge at NorthWood Friday, Jan. 17.
JV: Warsaw 27, Northridge 22. Top scorers: Warsaw — Kyle Mangas 9; Northridge — Spencer Jones 8.