ELKHART — Warsaw looked as curiously fresh as a flower in bloom — especially Jared Bloom.
The senior guard proved virtually unstoppable to the Northridge defense, scoring a career-high 33 points as the Tigers captured the Class 4A Elkhart Sectional boys basketball title with a 64-57 victory over the Raiders in the Saturday, March 2, final at North Side Gym.
Warsaw had narrowly escaped Central 45-44 in double overtime on Tuesday, then barely escaped prohibitive favorite Concord 43-41 in triple OT on Friday, yet the Tigers appeared increasingly crisp as Saturday's championship rolled into the second half.
“To do this — five overtimes and three games over five days — it's quite an accomplishment for our guys,” Doug Ogle said upon securing his fourth sectional title in 11 years heading up the Warsaw program.
“I guess the way we should look at it is those five overtimes just bolstered our aerobic conditioning a little bit,” Ogle said with a smile.
“You know, you can't survive both those first two games and then not win the sectional,” Bloom reasoned. “I think (the freshness) comes from within. We just wanted it so bad. And for me, it's something I've dreamt about my whole high school career. Every day I was in the gym working hard, I was thinking of a sectional championship. That's all I cared about.”
“We didn't have an answer for Jared Bloom,” Northridge rookie head coach Ronnie Thomas said of the 6-footer who went 9-of-12 from all over the field with three 3-pointers and 12-of-14 at the line. “Thirty-three points. And we couldn't trap him, because he found the open man.”
The Tigers (13-10), with about 2,500 fans looking on, advanced to a Michigan City Regional semifinal next Saturday against South Bend Adams (21-2).
Northridge (10-12), which had eliminated a 14-win Goshen club 62-46 in Friday's sectional semifinals for its seventh victory in nine games, was paced in the final by junior Nate Ritchie with 21 points and six rebounds. Senior Joey Ganyard added 13 points and sophomore Pete Smith 11.
The contest was tight most of the way.
Warsaw trailed 26-24 at halftime, but outscored the Raiders 18-9 in the third quarter for a 42-35 advantage.
Northridge answered right back in the first part of the fourth period, knotting the game at 43-all with 5:38 remaining and 46-all at 4:25 left, but after that, the Tigers took control.
A Jordan Stookey bucket put Warsaw up for good with 4:06 showing, and Bloom added a pair of free throws for a 50-45 count at 3:30 left.
Ritchie tallied with a putback basket at 3:13 remaining, but then the Tigers went on an 8-1 spree.
It was spiced by Thomas' first technical foul as a varsity head coach as he protested a non-foul call on a scramble that yielded a Warsaw transition possession.
“I yelled, 'That's a foul.' That's it,” an incredulous Thomas said of what caused an official passing the coach on the dead run to stop and blow his whistle with the transition ongoing. “Our entire section was yelling that. I think I might've scared him, because I was really close to him, but that's all I said.”
The tech at the 1:46 mark produced a pair of made free throws by Bloom for a 57-49 spread.
The Raiders got no closer than six the rest of the way, and never with the ball.
“I think we're just a little bit stronger than them physically,” Ogle said, “and wore them down a little bit.”
“Our guys never gave up, and I knew they wouldn't,” Thomas said. “When we got down seven (at the end of the third quarter), I knew it wasn't over.”
Ritchie (15) and Ganyard (11) — who attended Warsaw schools and was a Tiger camp regular until seventh grade — combined for all 26 of Northridge's first-half points, even with Ritchie sitting out a stretch of 4:49 with two fouls, but they were limited to six and two points, respectively, after the intermission.
“I called timeout in the second quarter and pointed to all the people who came here from Warsaw on this side, and all the people on this side,” Ogle said, motioning to both sides, “and said, 'Guys, these people did not came all the way up here to watch you guys not compete defensively, and let Nate Ritchie run wild, and from there, we did a little better.”
Stookey, a junior who tallied the game-winning buzzer-beater a night earlier against Concord, scored 12 points and dealt a game-high six assists for the Tigers. Sophomore Rashaan Jackson added all nine of his points in the second half.
The game was believed to be the first-ever Elkhart Sectional final in which both teams entered with double-digit losses.
Northridge was seeking its first sectional crown since 2004. Instead, Warsaw claimed its fourth in the last eight years.
“It's tough to watch the seniors go, because I think they've started something here,” said Thomas, who loses Ganyard, fellow starter Austin Moniot and reserves Arick Doberenz, Mike Presnell and Shannon Baker to graduation. “I thanked our seniors and said to the other guys to remember this feeling. Remember for the spring, remember for the summer, remember for the fall.”
4A Elkhart Sectional Final
Warsaw 64, Northridge 57
Warsaw — John Swanson 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Cone 1-4 5-6 7, Rashaan Jackson 3-7 3-5 9, Jared Bloom 9-12 12-14 33, Jordan Stookey 5-10 0-2 12, Jason Ferguson 1-1 1-2 3, Nate Pearl 0-0 0-0 0, Darren Walcott 0-0 0-0 0, Trae Furnivall 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Sands 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Mangas 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Long 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-34 (.559) 21-29 (.724) 64.
Northridge — Nate Ritchie 8-12 5-6 21, Austin Moniot 0-2 1-2 1, Joey Ganyard 6-10 1-3 13, Pete Smith 3-10 2-2 11, Sam Ahonen 2-6 4-5 8, Arick Doberenz 0-0 0-0 0, Tom Morrison 1-3 1-1 3, Christian Bach 0-0 0-0 0, Collin Utley 0-0 0-0 0, Mike Presnell 0-1 0-0 0, Shannon Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-44 (.455) 14-19 (.737) 57.
Scoring By Quarters
Warsaw 11 13 18 22 — 64
Northridge 16 10 9 22 — 57
3-point goals: Warsaw (5-9) — Bloom 3-4, Stookey 2-4; Northridge (3-16) — Smith 3-7.
Rebounds: Warsaw (24) — Cone 7, Stookey 5, Ferguson 5; Northridge (20) — Ritchie 6, Moniot 4.
Assists: Warsaw (8) — Stookey 6; Northridge (9) — Moniot 4.
Steals: Warsaw (0); Northridge (5) — Smith 3.
Turnovers: Warsaw 11, Northridge 7.
Fouls: Warsaw 18, Northridge 20. Fouled out — Moniot (1:35, 4th quarter), Ganyard (0:30, 4th). Technicals — Northridge coach Thomas, Jackson, Moniot.
Officials: Robert Childers, Trent Long, Tom Hinz.
Records: Warsaw 13-10, Northridge 10-12.
Next: Warsaw vs. SB Adams, Merrillville vs. Munster, Saturday, March 9 in semifinals of Class 4A Michigan City Regional, 11 a.m. ET and following; championship, 8:30 p.m.