ELKHART — Izzy Newsom doesn’t look like somebody who would feel uneasy about contact, but he says he was as Aaron Flax came soaring through the lane.
“I’d only tried to take a charge one other time in my life,” Elkhart Memorial’s junior backup center said, “and (the call) didn’t go my way, and I knocked my head on the floor. I was kind of nervous as (Flax) was coming, but everything went well.”
Boy, did it ever.
Newsom coaxed a charging foul with 1.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime to effectively seal a chaotic contest as the Crimson Chargers outlasted Elkhart Central 71-70 in the boys high school basketball city showdown Friday, Dec. 6, at rocking North Side Gym.
With his play, Newsom may have made himself the most improbable hero of all in a rivalry that’s been full of them over more than four decades.
First off, consider that he hadn’t appeared in the game until OT as the Chargers scrambled to put players on the floor with three starters and one reserve each fouling out.
Secondly, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Newsom’s only previous experience in organized basketball before this now-two-game-old season was at West Side Middle School — and that was on the “B” squad.
“I felt like I was out of shape for it,” Newsom said of not going out for basketball as a freshman or sophomore, “but I just really enjoyed playing it in gym last year, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m really enjoying it and Coach (Mark Barnhizer) has really taken me under his wing.”
“Izzy’s the kind of kid you really want in your program, because he doesn’t give a crap about anything but competing and winning,” Barnhizer said. “He’s not the most beautiful basketball player who ever played, but he’s a big, strong guy and he just took it on himself to make a play there. That was all Izzy.”
“I didn’t know for sure,” Newsom said of which way the officials were going to call his collision with Flax right in front of the Blue Blazers’ student section — part of a crowd estimated at 3,200 overall.
“I got hit, I laid there, I listened to Central’s crowd right there over me, and then I heard from across the gym our crowd erupting, and I just knew,” Newsom said with a big grin.
“(Flax) did exactly what I told him to do,” Blazer coach Troy Noble said. “Go to the rim, and see how they call the block-charge. See what happens. How many had they called all night (unofficially, one other on Central)?”
After the ensuing timeout, senior Jaron Walters intercepted Memorial’s three-quarters-court inbound, but his desperation heave fell well short of the rim as time expired.
Charger fans rushed onto the court in delirium.
Sophomore Michael O’Toole’s lay-in with six seconds left on a zipped pass into the interior by Austin Miller wound up the game’s final points as Memorial improved to 1-1 just three nights after losing at Elkhart Christian by 23.
“That was a rough game for us,” O’Toole said of Tuesday’s opener, “but we bounced back. We practiced hard and I was still excited for this game. Our whole team was. It’s our rivals, and we got a great team win. A lot of guys stepped up.”
Indeed, including the likes of senior guard Austin Miller, who like Newsom, probably wouldn’t have been in down the stretch if not for all the foul-outs. Instead, Miller finished with three huge assists over the final seconds of the fourth period and OT, to go with three rebounds, two points and two steals overall.
“You can’t be more proud of the guys we had on the floor,” Barnhizer said. “All those kids played hard.”
Sophomore guard A.J. Gary led Memorial with 28 points, but fouled out midway through the first extra period. He went 10-of-19 from the floor, including 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, and 3-of-3 at the line.
O’Toole tallied 10 points, while Dimitri Giger added a game-high 11 rebounds to go with nine points and two blocked shots before fouling out with 1:55 left in regulation.
Giger, who had a pair of authoritative slams, wore No. 24 instead of his usual No. 4 to honor his stepfather, ex-Memorial standout Larry Forrest, who died six days earlier at age 48.
The Chargers led most of the game and appeared on the cusp of putting it away when they held a 55-41 advantage with 6:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But Central (0-2) mounted a ferocious rally, scoring 16 straight points for a 57-55 lead with 1:09 showing.
Then it got even crazier, as each side scrapped and came up with numerous plays to stay alive.
There were three ties in the final 47 seconds of regulation, then six lead changes during the frenzied OTs.
“Frustrating, very frustrating,” Noble said of the outcome. “Who goes into a game thinking they’re going to miss 19 free throws to lose a triple overtime game, or was it double overtime?”
The Blazers finished 24-of-43 at the line for 56 percent, while Memorial was 14-of-19 for 74 percent.
Central also converted just 2-of-17 shots outside the arc, to the Chargers’ 7-of-24.
“I never would’ve believed we would’ve shot that poorly on the perimeter,” Noble said, “but hats off to Memorial for their ability to beat us out by one possession again.”
The Chargers had claimed a 49-47 win last season in Noble’s Longfellow Trophy debut, and have now won three straight meetings and seven of the last nine overall.
“I think both teams are struggling to find what they’re going to be,” Barnhizer said, alluding to the 57 turnovers, 31 of those by Memorial. “I think both have some talent, but it’s settling down and not giving it away 56 times or whatever it was. Both have a chance to get better. We’re pretty young, they’re pretty young.”
Flax, a junior, paced the Blazers, who suffered their second straight one-point loss, with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Walters netted 12 points. Sophomore Clinton Parker and junior Treyton Harris each contributed 11 points and three steals, while senior Tre Taylor had nine points and a game-high four steals.
Elkhart Memorial 71, Elkhart Central 70
Central — Jaron Walters 4-8 4-5 12, Aaron Flax 3-10 8-15 14, Derald Gray 2-3 0-3 4, Treyton Harris 4-8 2-2 11, Tre Taylor 3-5 3-6 9, Antwaan Allen 1-2 3-4 5, Clinton Parker 3-15 4-5 11, Langston Johnson 0-3 0-1 0, Shaneal Mackey 2-2 0-2 4. Totals: 22-56 (.393) 24-43 (.558) 70.
Memorial — Dimitri Giger 3-8 3-3 9, Jon Bailey 2-8 2-2 7, Michael O’Toole 5-9 0-2 10, A.J. Gary 10-19 3-3 28, Cameron Maxwell 2-10 3-5 7, Chris Kale 1-1 2-2 4, Darrius Baker 1-1 0-0 3, Austin Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Deante Dalton 0-0 1-2 1, Izzy Newsom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-58 (.431) 14-19 (.737) 71.
Scoring By Quarters
Central 9 16 12 24 4 5 — 70
Memorial 16 19 15 11 4 6 — 71
3-point goals: Central (2-17) — Harris 1-3, Parker 1-9; Memorial (7-24) — Gary 5-9, Baker 1-1, Bailey 1-5.
Rebounds: Central (38) — Flax 8, Allen 6, Parker 6, Taylor 5; Memorial (40) — Giger 11, Kale 6, Bailey 5, Maxwell 5.
Assists: Central (11) — Walters 3; Memorial (20) — Maxwell 7, Gary 3, Miller 3.
Steals: Central (19) — Taylor 4, Harris 3, Parker 3; Memorial (13) — Gary 3, Maxwell 3.
Turnovers: Central 26, Memorial 31.
Fouls: Central 23, Memorial 31. Fouled out — Bailey (2:27, 4th quarter), Giger (1:55, 4th), Harris (3:55, 1st OT), Gary (1:47, 1st OT), Taylor (1:46, 1st OT), Kale (1:17, 1st OT).
Records: Central 0-2, Memorial 1-1.
Next: Central at Goshen Saturday, Dec. 7; Memorial at LaPorte Friday, Dec. 13.
JV: Memorial 40, Central 20. Top scorers: Memorial — Mikal McGuire 11, Izzy Newsom 8; Central — Trenton Culbreath 10. JV records: Memorial 2-0, Central 0-2.