DUNLAP — Steve Austin was nearly reduced to what his Concord Minutemen have been reducing the rest of the Northern Lakes Conference to all season.
“Those sheets almost got me to tears there. I had to sit down for a second,” Austin said after the Minutemen presented him his 400th career boys high school basketball victory and completed a perfect league season with their 71-55 win over Northridge on Thursday, Feb. 7, at McCuen Gym.
Inside of the final minute, with the outcome well in hand, the Concord student section unveiled about a 25-foot green sheet that read “Congrats Coach Austin.” Then an accompanying white sheet was revealed to note the 400th win.
“We've had great fans, and they're a big part of this,” Austin said. “It's nice to be recognized that way, but again, it's surrounding yourself with a lot of good people. I don't get close to 400 without them.”
Nobody ended up close to the Minutemen (15-1, 7-0) in the NLC this season — they became the first team in the 49-year history of the conference to win the league race by three games.
“We wanted to go undefeated in the NLC,” DuWhan Alford said after scoring a season-high 13 points, making three steals and punctuating the title in the closing minute with an alley-oop feed to fellow senior Franko House in transition for a power dunk. “Yeah, we already had it clinched, but we wanted it to be known we're the dominant team in the NLC this year.”
“It was nice to get Coach his 400th win and to go undefeated in the conference so nobody else could share any bragging rights,” added House, who also scored 13 points, to go with game highs of eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Sophomore Filip Serwatka netted a team-high 22 points for the winners, while junior Adam Glanders contributed 13 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Smooth junior Nate Ritchie poured in a game-high 27 points for Northridge (7-10, 3-4).
He converted 10 of his final 11 field goals after missing his first three and added a 7-of-7 effort at the line, but it wasn't enough to keep the Raiders' four-game winning streak from being snapped.
The Minutemen led 37-29 at halftime, then seized control by outscoring the visitors 21-5 in the third period.
“I think that third quarter was kind of the story,” rookie Northridge coach Ronnie Thomas said. “I think our guys' hearts for the most part were in it, but for about five minutes in that third quarter, our heads spaced a little bit and we gave up some backdoors we shouldn't have, they got some splits on us they shouldn't have, and they got some offensive rebounds.”
In fact, for the night, Concord overwhelmed the Raiders 23-3 on second-chance points and finished with a 30-15 rebounding edge overall.
“I didn't think we played with great excitement (last week) at NorthWood,” Austin said, “but we came out tonight with a lot of spirit and spunk (jumping to an 8-0 lead that was trimmed to one point three times in the opening quarter, but never relinquished), and then again in the second half we came back out with that spirit again, and that's what we need.”
Austin's 400 wins — against 242 losses — include a 78-28 mark in his fifth year with the Minutemen. He was 140-76 in nine years at South Bend St. Joseph, 18-28 in two years at Richmond, 160-93 in 11 years at Northridge and 4-17 in one year at Edwardsburg, Mich. At least five of his ex-players, including Thomas, have gone on to become head coaches.
“I'm glad it's over and we can talk about trying to win championships now,” Austin said with postseason less than three weeks away.
“He's a great coach and has been doing this for a long time,” Alford said, “and I'm real proud of being a part of his 400th win.”
Concord 71, Northridge 55
Northridge — Nate Ritchie 10-14 7-7 27, Austin Moniot 2-10 3-4 9, Joey Ganyard 1-5 2-2 4, Pete Smith 3-8 0-0 8, Sam Ahonen 3-4 1-2 7, Arick Doberenz 0-2 0-0 0, Tom Morrison 0-0 0-0 0, Christian Bach 0-0 0-0 0, Shannon Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-43 (.442) 13-15 (.867) 55.
Concord — Franko House 6-11 0-2 13, DuWhan Alford 5-9 2-2 13, Filip Serwatka 9-13 3-4 22, Adam Glanders 5-7 2-3 13, Ramon Johnson 0-0 3-5 3, Dylan Wynne 1-2 0-0 3, Dakota Simon 1-1 0-0 2, Jacob Kronk 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 28-45 (.622) 10-16 (.625) 71.
Scoring By Quarters
Northridge 14 15 5 21 — 55
Concord 16 21 21 13 — 71
3-point goals: Northridge (4-14) — Moniot 2-5, Smith 2-6; Concord (5-11) — Glanders 1-1, House 1-2, Serwatka 1-2, Wynne 1-2, Alford 1-3.
Rebounds: Northridge (15) — Ritchie 4; Concord (30) — House 8, Glanders 6, Serwatka 5.
Assists: Northridge (14) — Ahonen 4, Ganyard 4, Moniot 3; Concord (14) — House 4, Serwatka 3.
Steals: Northridge (7) — Moniot 4; Concord (8) — Alford 3, Glanders 3.
Turnovers: Northridge 10, Concord 12.
Fouls: Northridge 14, Concord 15. Fouled out — House.
Officials: Zach Sliwa, Valparaiso; Sean Treece, Valparaiso; Tim Mills, Hanna.
Records: Northridge 7-10 (3-4 NLC), Concord 15-1 (7-0 NLC).
Next: Northridge at West Noble Saturday, Feb. 9, 1 p.m. JV start; SB Riley at Concord Tuesday, Feb. 12.
JV: Concord 33, Northridge 28. Top scorers: Concord — Danny McMahon 11, Trevor Wimore 9; Northridge — Brock Downey 14. JV records: Concord 13-3, Northridge 7-9.