By Rick Conrad For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — CHALMERS — The Winamac boys basketball team has seen its share of struggles this season but has played its best ball when it has counted.
On Tuesday night at Frontier the Warriors rose to the challenge again as they downed the Falcons in a Midwest Conference matchup, 57-50.
With the win the Warriors (8-7 overall) remain undefeated in conference play at 4-0. They take to the road again tonight when they travel to Tri-County (10-5, 3-1 MWC) to try and keep their conference record clean.
The Falcons (6-11, 3-3) opened the game in a box-and-one with Warrior sharpshooter Adam Gruenig as the center of attention. Gruenig got a quick look early and buried the shot from behind the arc but was harassed most of the night. It took his Warrior teammates a few minutes to digest what was going on but when they adjusted they made the best of things.
With Gruenig bottled up, J.T. Garnett, Parker Fox and Levi Schultz stepped up and hit some big shots to send Winamac out to a 13-10 lead after one quarter of play.
In the second frame the Warriors started to stumble a bit. They opened the quarter on a 5-0 run to up the score to 18-10 and forced Frontier into a timeout. It was a different Falcon club that took the floor after the timeout as the Warriors struggled against the Falcons defense and couldn’t stop their pass and cut offense. Before they knew what had hit them Winamac was looking at a 11-1 run by Frontier and the Falcons took a 23-22 lead over the Warriors. Winamac tried to hold the ball for the last 30 seconds but missed on its attempt and went into the break with a 26-24 deficit.
Coach Kyle Johnson’s half-time talk must have been nothing short of inspirational, for when they took the floor for the second half they began playing some of their best basketball of the year. The Warriors quickly opened on a 12-0 forcing coach Rush McColley to take his second timeout of the quarter with his squad down 36-26. The run was devastating for Frontier as it was apparent Winamac had taken the wind out of the sails. Winamac went on to take a 43-34 lead after three.
Winamac opened the final quarter the same as the had the third by going on an 8-0 run to make it a 51-34 game. Around the 3:00 mark Winamac went to spreading the floor and trying to take some time off the clock. That’s when Frontier decided to make things interesting. The Falcons went to a frenetic fullcourt press that began to cause the Warriors to turn the ball over. When Winamac did break the press the Falcons would foul finally sending Winamac to the line. Not the greatest of foul shooting teams, Winamac had three trips to the line come up empty when the shooters missed the front end of a one-and-one. Meanwhile Frontier kept chipping away before running out of time with a 57-50 defeat.
“I think we played really well as a team,” Fox said. “Our shooters were hitting and our big guys were doing the work inside that they needed to do. Our coaches had us well prepared for this game and the press was something they had us prepared for, but when they went to it we were kind of rushed and didn’t think things through the way we should have.”
Both squads shot 52 percent from the field for the game but Winamac was 9 of 17 from long distance for 53 percent compared to just 20 percent for Frontier. The Falcons did win from the free throw line as they were 16 of 22 compared to Winamac at 4 of 9.
Fox led the Warrior attack with a team-high 19 points.
Brandon Gallinger led the Falcons with a game-high 20 points while Jordan Zarse finished with 15.
“I have to be pleased with the effort tonight,” Johnson said. “It’s not easy to win a conference game on the road. It’s not easy to win at home either. You have to bring it every single game or they’re going to take it from you. I thought we were fundamentally sound in this game and the press shouldn’t have fazed us like it did. Most of our turnovers came in the fourth quarter. We just have to be sharper.”