ELKHART — It was as if the basketball gods couldn’t decide for sure on whether they wanted this epic upset to occur.
They had three overtimes to ponder it, and yet, apparently, they were still pondering as Jordan Stookey’s running desperation shot from just outside the arc continued to feather-dust the rim, and eventually take on magic-bullet-like tendencies.
Ultimately, it went in as time expired, and with it Warsaw knocked off No. 8-ranked Concord 41-39 in a Class 4A Elkhart Sectional triple-OT shocker in front of about 4,500 fans Friday, March 2 at North Side Gym.
The Tigers (12-10) — who had just escaped Central in double OT in Tuesday’s opening round — advanced to Saturday’s championship against fellow surprise winner Northridge (10-11).
The Minutemen, a sparkling 19-1 in the regular season, closed 0-1 in the postseason.
“That last shot, the ball was coming out of the rim, and then it went right back in,” openly tearful Concord coach Steve Austin said. “It started to turn left, then went right back in.”
“(Stookey) spun it off the flange,” Warsaw coach Doug Ogle said, referring to the small surface that attaches the rim to the backboard. “I mean, you cannot do that on a runner 3. I don’t know how he did it. It hit the flange and it spun and stopped and punched right back in. I’ve never seen anybody make a shot like that.”
Stookey himself almost didn’t see it.
“I didn’t really see the rim as I shot because Franko (House of Concord) jumped, but I knew it was somewhat in that direction, so it kind of had a chance at least,” said Stookey, who fell as he fired. “I was on the ground and I looked up and the ball dropped. And I heard the crowd and heard the buzzer and knew it was over.”
Stookey, a junior, scored five of the Tigers' seven points of the third OT and finished with 13. Jared Bloom led the winners with 14 points.
House, a four-year starter, had game highs of 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in his final appearance for the Minutemen.
Warsaw won by figuratively shortening the game, which happened to literally lengthen the game, which eventually shortened Concord from full strength — thanks to two of its starters fouling out in the second extra period.
“It’s hard to take,” Austin admitted as he wiped his eyes after an extended period in the locker room with his team. “I gotta give Warsaw credit. They did what they had to do to win, but we made a lot of mistakes that really hurt us, and the whole game, not just at the end. Some bad shots, some bad passes. I just thought we panicked at times, and it hurt us, but the thing is, we stuck in there and still had a chance to win it.”
Both teams had multiple chances.
The Minutemen missed a reasonably open-look 19-footer just before the regulation horn.
Then each side turned the ball over in the final seconds of the first OT.
In the second OT, Warsaw’s usually sure-shooting Bloom missed two free throws with five seconds left and the game knotted.
House then made a spectacular tip try of a missed shot as time expired — one that initially looked like it had a better chance of going in than Stookey’s forthcoming shot — but it softly rolled out.
In the third OT, Ramon Johnson calmly swished a pair of free throws with four seconds left to put Concord up 39-38 and set himself up as the apparent hero, but then Stookey dribbled up the court and launched his game-winner.
“We didn’t make him change direction at all,” Austin said. “We made it too easy for him, but you gotta give him credit.”
The Minutemen started the game blazing hot, draining four 3-pointers in the opening quarter on their way to a 14-7 advantage by late in the period, but the favorites would never hit another trey all night (while Stookey’s was the lone one all evening by Warsaw).
Concord upped its lead to 18-9 early in the second quarter, but would not score again in that period, and then added just two points in the third period.
That was due in part to the Tigers chewing 6:32 off the clock on one third-quarter possession while trailing 20-15 as the Minutemen mostly laid back defensively. The possession was capped by Bloom nailing a 12-footer to close the Tigers to within 20-17 entering the fourth quarter.
“I was happy, I was elated,” Ogle said of Concord not forcing the issue while his underdog team held the ball in third, and again became deliberate a couple times in the fourth. “You tell me we’re in that situation, I’m going to take that and shorten that game up, because the longer the game goes, the more the pressure swings to them.”
“You always think about it,” Austin said of whether to challenge Warsaw’s slow-down maneuver, “but we had a five-point lead. Part of it plays into their game, but I also thought half-court, we’re just as good as they are. And we had DuWhan (Alford) in foul trouble, so that goes into your head, too.”
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers closed to 22-21 with 7:17 remaining, but a Johnson free throw and an Adam Glanders basket on a give-and-go with Dylan Wynne put the Minutemen up 25-21 with 4:16 showing.
Warsaw ate another couple minutes before taking its next attempt.
The Tigers came up empty there, as did Concord on its next possession, before two free throws by Taylor Cone closed Warsaw to within 25-23 with 1:37 left.
Then, after a Minuteman turnover, Stookey converted both ends of a one-and-one with exactly one minute left for the 25-all count that sent the game to the original OT.
Concord, after getting those 14 points in the opening quarter, never scored more than five in a period again.
The Minutemen shot just 12 of 35 from the field for 34 percent, while Warsaw went 11 of 25 for 44 percent. The Tigers also managed 28 free throw tries to Concord’s 17, with the teams making about the same percentage.
“Our defense overall was so packed in,” Ogle said, “and it took away their back cuts, took away their dribble penetration. It was really hard for them to do much. And our zone was pretty effective. I wasn’t planning on playing zone against them, but we did a little bit, and that was helpful, but our guys are just unbelievably resilient. I’ve never been around a group that hangs in there as well as they do.”
“Not right now,” Austin said upon emerging from the locker room of whether there was much he could tell his players to help them put the Minutemen’s second-best record percentage-wise over the last 23 years into perspective. “It’s dead silent in there. What do you say to kids at this point?”
A moment later, with about 200 faithful fans tightly packed into one narrow North Side hallway just outside the locker room, the players emerged slowly and the fans began a steady clap.
“It’s a special group,” Austin said of the players walked by, “and our team and our fans, we’re like one big family.”
Warsaw 41, Concord 39 (3 OTs)
Concord — Franko House 5-13 5-8 16, DuWhan Alford 0-2 0-1 0, Filip Serwatka 3-8 0-0 7, Adam Glanders 3-6 2-2 9, Ramon Johnson 1-4 4-6 7, Dylan Wynne 0-1 0-0 0, Dakota Simon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 12-35 (.343) 11-17 (.647) 39.
Warsaw — John Swanson 0-0 0-2 0, Taylor Cone 2-3 5-6 9, Rashaan Jackson 0-6 4-6 4, Jared Bloom 7-11 0-2 14, Jordan Stookey 2-5 8-10 13, Jason Ferguson 0-0 1-2 1, Nate Pearl 0-0 0-0 0, Trae Furnivall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-25 (.440) 18-28 (.643) 41.
Scoring By Quarters
Concord 14 4 2 5 5 4 5 — 39
Warsaw 9 4 4 8 5 4 7 — 41
3-point goals: Concord (4-12) — Serwatka 1-1, Johnson 1-1, Glanders 1-2, House 1-4; Warsaw (1-6) — Stookey 1-4.
Rebounds: Concord (20) — House 8, Johnson 4; Warsaw (16) — Swanson 4, Cone 3, Jackson 3.
Assists: Concord (7) — House 2, Glanders 2, Wynne 2; Warsaw (5) — Stookey 3.
Steals: Concord (4) — Alford 2; Warsaw (6) — Cone 2, Bloom 2, Stookey 2.
Turnovers: Concord 12, Warsaw 10.
Fouls: Concord 21, Warsaw 16. Fouled out — Alford (1:18, 2nd ot), Serwatka (0:05, 2nd ot).
Officials: Robert Childers, Tom Hinz, Kent Denlinger.
Records: Concord 19-2, Warsaw 12-10.
Next: Warsaw vs. Northridge, Saturday, March 2, in Class 4A Elkhart Sectional championship at North Side Gym, 7:30 p.m.