MIDDLEBURY — The Northridge Raiders shot from the gate as if they were shot out from a missile launcher, and Nate Ritchie collected dunks as if he was aboard that missile.
When it was over, the Raiders had landed alone at the top of the Northern Lakes Conference boys basketball standings thanks to their 76-58 boys basketball runaway win over visiting Elkhart Memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at an unusually subdued Middlebury Madhouse.
With the weather still not particularly driver friendly, the band not present and the crowd less than half the norm after several consecutive days out of school, Northridge nevertheless played from the beginning as if stoked.
“Coach (Ronnie) Thomas said in the locker room before the game that there’s not been one time that we have really gotten out to a really great start this year,” Ritchie said. “That was our goal tonight.”
Goal accomplished: the Raiders led 14-0 after four minutes and were never seriously threatened.
The 6-foot-7 Ritchie flushed down five dunks — three of them in the first quarter — on his way to team highs of 25 points and nine rebounds, while Pete Smith added 17 points, six rebounds and six assists as Northridge improved to 11-2 overall, 4-0 in the league.
“That’s the most (dunks) I’ve ever seen by anyone in a high school game,” said the 6-10 Thomas, adding that he had just two dunks of his own during his entire standout career as a Raider. “Some of it was our good defense and creating turnovers, and Nate and our guys being able to run off those turnovers, but it was still great.”
“Maybe in AAU, but definitely not in high school,” Ritchie said of whether he’d ever dunked five times in a game. “I think the most in a high school game was three.”
Dimitri Giger had game highs of 26 points and 11 boards for the Chargers (6-7, 3-1). Fellow junior Darrius Baker netted 13 points to go with five rebounds, while classmate Cameron Maxwell finished with eight points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“They’re better than us, there’s no doubt about that,” Memorial coach Mark Barnhizer said of Northridge, “but if we had guarded them at the start, that would’ve helped some.”
"I think our guys were just ready to play," Thomas said. "We knew the crowd wasn't going to be the greatest — and a big thanks to everyone who was able to make it — but I told our guys there have been a lot of games we've come out flat, so we wanted to jump them first and have that energy early."
Back-to-back dunks by Ritchie capped the 14-0 start, before Baker scored the Chargers' first points of the night at the 3:35 mark of the opening period.
The closest Memorial ever got the rest of the way was 18-10 late in the first quarter, and the Raiders owned double-digit leads from the 3:24 mark of the second period onward.
While the brutal opening to the game, and much that followed it, was such that many coaches on the trailing end might've chewed up their timeouts, Barnhizer opted to eschew his timeouts, never calling one until late in the fourth quarter.
"The guys just gotta grow up," Barnhizer said of his young club. "You don't have to call timeout every time something goes wrong and soothe their feelings. We've got to understand that if we're gonna play with the best teams on our schedule, we've gotta be tougher. We have to live through some things like that. I thought after they blitzed us at the start, our kids did toughen up some."
Memorial got as close as 42-31 early in the third quarter after trailing 39-22 at halftime, but Tom Morrison's 3-pointer stretched the gap back to 47-31. Morrison scored eight of his 10 points in that quarter.
"We had opportunities to get back in the game in the third quarter, but (Morrison) hit a couple outside shots there because we didn't follow the scouting report on him," Barnhizer said. "If you don't follow it, he's going to hurt you from outside."
Northridge shot 62 percent from the field , including 10-of-20 on 3-pointers. Oddly, the hosts were just 2-of-8 at the line, but that came with large leads in hand.
"We've been shooting lights out from the line," Thomas said. "I don't know what happen there, but if you have a big lead, I guess that's a good time. I hope and think it's just a little (aberration)."
The Chargers closed at 36 percent from the field and 67 percent at the line.
"Northridge is the best team in our sectional right now," Barnhizer said of the Class 4A Elkhart field, "and everybody else is just trying to find a way right now to get caught up with them."
Elkhart Memorial 58
Memorial — Dimitri Giger 8-19 8-12 26, Mikal McGuire 0-1 0-0 0, Michael O’Toole 1-5 1-2 3, Cameron Maxwell 3-10 0-0 8, Darrius Baker 5-11 2-2 13, Austin Miller 1-2 0-0 2, A.J. Gary 2-8 1-2 6. Totals: 20-56 (.357) 12-18 (.667) 58.
Northridge — Nate Ritchie 12-18 1-4 25, Tom Morrison 4-6 0-0 10, Sam Ahonen 3-4 0-1 6, Pete Smith 6-12 1-2 17, Kurtis Hochstetler 3-4 0-0 9, Collin Utley 1-4 0-0 2, Brock Downey 2-2 0-0 4, Payton Carson 1-2 0-0 3, Christian Bach 0-0 0-0 0, Caleb Kiser 0-0 0-0 0, Spencer Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 32-52 (.615) 2-8 (.250) 76.
Scoring By Quarters
Memorial 10 12 19 17 — 58
Northridge 20 19 19 18 — 76
3-point goals: Memorial (6-21) — Giger 2-7, Maxwell 2-7, Baker 1-3, Gary 1-3; Northridge (10-20) — Smith 4-7, Hochstetler 3-4, Morrison 2-3, Carson 1-2.
Rebounds: Memorial (33) — Giger 11, Maxwell 6, Baker 5; Northridge (26) — Ritchie 9, Smith 6.
Assists: Memorial (12) — Maxwell 7; Northridge (24) — Ahonen 7, Smith 6, Utley 5.
Steals: Memorial (5) — Gary 2; Northridge (9) — Morrison 2, Smith 2, Utley 2.
Turnovers: Memorial 13, Northridge 13.
Fouls: Memorial 10, Northridge 19. Fouled out — none.
Officials: Steve Chamness, Pat Richter, Roy Lesher.
Records: Memorial 6-7 (3-1 NLC), Northridge 11-2 (4-0 NLC).
Next: Goshen vs. Memorial at North Side Gym, Northridge at Plymouth, both Friday, Jan. 31.
JV: Northridge 42, Memorial 37. Top scorers: Northridge — Dylan Sandy 13, Spencer Jones 10, Caleb Kiser 8, Ryan Bell 8; Memorial — A.J. Gary 11, Trevor Murphy 10, Mytchell Sellers 8. JV records: Northridge 8-5, Memorial 9-4.