ELKHART — Two games may not seem like many, but for the first time in 25 years, Goshen has won two in an Elkhart Sectional.
Hoping to continue their momentum, the Redskins (13-9) face Concord (14-8) for the Class 4A Elkhart Sectional title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8, in North Side Gym.
Behind the interior play of Austin Woolett, playmaking of Brady Bechtel and a gargantuan advantage in free throw chances (36-7), Goshen beat Elkhart Central 61-55 in Friday’s second semifinal — just hours after the Blue Blazers learned their head coach had resigned.
Woolett, a 6-foot-5 junior who was averaging 10.5 points going in, netted 25 and finished 10-of-13 from the field. The oft-driving Bechtel shot 16 free throws, making 14, and scored 16 points as the Redskins improved to 9-1 over their last 10 games.
"We've clicked as a team, we know what our roles are and we're excecuting them," Woolett said.
"It’s going to be a battle of heart (in the final)," Goshen coach Brian Bechtel said. "We’re different (from a 58-37 blowout loss at Concord on Jan. 10), but they’re different. Both teams have players back they didn’t have before (most specifically, Brady Bechtel for the Redskins, Adam Glanders for the Minutemen)."
Central suffered its seventh straight loss to close at 5-16. The Blazers were playing their third straight game without head coach Troy Noble, who last led a practice Feb. 22, but this one was just a few hours after the players learned that Noble had resigned Friday.
"These kids are to be commended," interim coach Scott Sassaman said. "I mean I don’t know how I would’ve handled the situation, I really don’t. They could’ve folded it up, cashed it in, two weeks ago, but they didn’t want to let the seniors down. They just battled, and we’ve really appreciated it as a coaching staff."
Senior Derald Gray came off the bench to score 13 points, with 6-of-6 field goal shooting, and grab eight rebounds for the Blazers. Junior Treyton Harris added 12 points.
The Redskins led from early in the second quarter onward, including by 12 points on two occasions, but Central fought to as close as four points four times in the fourth quarter, including 49-45 with 2:59 remaining.
Woolett, though, scored the next two baskets in the lane to make the count 53-45 at the 1:49 mark, and then Goshen got the spread back to double digits, 55-45, at 1:18 when Jack Gingerich drained both ends of a one-and-one.
"He played strong tonight," Brian Bechtel said of Woolett. "He only scored three points (in Tuesday's first round), but I told him, 'This is a game you can have a big game. They pressure the ball, the post should be open, I don't think they'll double you, so be prepared to monster your way to the basket,' and I thought he played really physical, really strong."
"When Coach tells me they're not double-teaming, I just go at 'em and see if I can get the and-ones," Woolett said, "and if they do double, I kick it out to our shooters."
"Honestly, we probably should've gone to Derald earlier and stuck with him," Sassaman said. "He had a career night, and he was the only one for us that really gave Woolett any real trouble. (Woolett) hurt us."
So did that free throw discrepancy, not that it was by accident from the Redskins' perspective.
"We knew Central was going to pressure us pretty hard," Brian Bechtel said, "so we wanted to get out and attack early and see if we could get to the free throw line, and I thought we did that well the first half. (Central) made some good adjustments and we weren't able to get there as much the second half, but it was definitely part of our game plan to attack them off the dribble."
Goshen converted 30 of its 36 chances at the line for 83 percent. The Blazers finished 5-of-7 at the line.
"They created a lot of contact, and (Brady Bechtel's) crafty," Sassaman said. "(The difference in attempts) was a little lopsided, maybe a lot lopsided, but I never will put that sort of thing on a loss."
While the last time the Redskins won two Elkhart Sectional games was indeed 1989, they have played in three finals since then at North Side (the most recent in 2007), but each of those came in years that they had byes into the semis.
Goshen also hosted its own sectional from 1992 to 1997, capturing its last sectional crown anywhere in '92.
On Saturday, they'll shoot for their first at Elkhart since 1969.
CLASS 4A ELKHART SECTIONAL
Goshen 61, Elkhart Central 55
Central — Jaron Walters 4-7 0-0 8, Tre Taylor 1-2 2-4 4, Treyton Harris 5-9 0-0 12, Langston Johnson 1-4 0-0 3 Antwaan Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Aaron Flax 4-5 0-0 8, Clinton Parker 1-3 2-2 5, Derald Gray 6-6 1-1 13, Genoris Crawford 0-0 0-0 0, Cornell Conner 0-0 0-0 0, Shaneal Mackey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-39 (.590) 5-7 (.714) 55
Goshen — Austin Woolett 10-13 5-8 25, DJ Ambrose 2-4 0-0 4 Deric Haynes 1-3 0-0 2, Jack Gingerich 1-4 4-4 7, Brady Bechtel 1-7 14-16 16, Alex Hartsough 0-1 0-0 0, Cameron Kline 0-1 5-6 5, Alex Haney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-33 (.455) 30-36 (.833) 61.
Scoring By Quarters
Central — 20 3 12 20 — 55
Goshen — 18 15 11 17 — 61
3-point goals: Central (4-13) — Harris 2-4, Parker 1-3, Johnson 1-4; Goshen (1-8) — Gingerich 1-2.
Rebounds: Central (21) — Gray 8, Taylor 5, Walters 4; Goshen (19) — Ambrose 8, Woolett 6.
Assists: Central (14) — Taylor 2, Harris 2, Johnson 2, Allen 2, Flax 2, Parker 2; Goshen (9) — Ambrose 3, Bechtel 3.
Steals: Central (1) — Allen; Goshen (5) — Woolett 2.
Turnovers: Central 9, Goshen 5.
Total fouls: Central 21, Goshen 9. Fouled out — Parker (0:56, 4th quarter).
Officials: Jay Smith, Trent Beer, Cary Schnick.
Records: Central 5-16, Goshen 13-9.
Next: Goshen vs. Concord in 4A Elkhart Sectional championship Saturday, March 8, 7:30 p.m.