WINAMAC — Lewis Cass boys basketball team entered Saturday night’s game at Winamac on an eight-game winning streak, winning all eight by at least 18 points.
But the Kings found themselves in a dogfight with the Warriors. The game went down to the wire, with the Kings holding on for a 59-54 win for their ninth victory in a row.
The Class 2A No. 11 Kings (11-2) secured the win at the foul line, going 31 of 41 for the game including 18 of 20 in the second half.
But hot 3-point shooting by the Warriors (5-6) kept it close in the fourth quarter. J.T. Garnett hit three treys in the final nine minutes, and Adam Gruenig’s 3-ball with 28 seconds remaining broth the Warriors to within 56-54.
Evan Ohman hit 1 of 2 free throws to push the lead back to three. Blake Hadley then came up with a big steal for the Kings, and Austin Keisling hit two free throws with 7.7 seconds left to secure the win.
“That was exactly what we needed,” Cass coach Jon Kitchel told WLHM in a postgame interview. “We’ve had a lot of games that have been decided by early in the third or fourth quarter. We hadn’t really been challenged. We had guys step up and hit free throws for us, and for us to make a run in the tournament we’ll have to win games like this.
“As disappointed as I was with our play last night, I was very proud tonight. Winamac had a great game plan. They played 13 guys and used as many fouls as they needed to. They’re a very physical, very strong team. At halftime me and coach Yeoman were talking and we said if we could get a two-point win tonight we’d be tickled to death.”
Keisling led the Kings with 18 points. Hadley had 15 and Evan Ohman added 12.
“We had some players grow up tonight. Evan Ohman, a freshman, hit some clutch free throws,” Kitchel told WLHM. “We ran the weave well. It wasn’t good last night but we’ll need to use it at different points this season. I was really happy with the way we played to finish the game.”
Ryan Bixler left the game late in the first quarter after scoring six early points and did not return.
“It’s not a concussion,” Kitchel said to WLHM. “He bumped heads with another player during a scramble for the ball. He has a goose egg behind his ear. We’ll put ice on it and hopefully he’ll be ready to go for Northwestern.”
Garnett led the Warriors with nine points. Parker Fox, Levi Schultz and Dalton Button each added eight. Button added a game-high 10 rebounds.
Gruenig and Jeremy Bentle added six points apiece, and Jeff Nies had five.
Schultz and Fox both fouled out in the closing minutes. Derek Dotlich left the game with an ankle injury.
“I think Lewis Cass is a great team. My guys played extremely hard and with a great deal of heart,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said. “We didn’t do a good job of playing hard without fouling. We got beat at the free throw line. We hit so many more field goals and 3s, but got beat 31-5 on the foul line.
“We handled their press really well, especially in the second half. We had 11 turnovers in the first half and five in the second. I’m very pleased.
“We had several players step up tonight. If we want to be successful at the end of the year we’ll have to beat teams like this. I’m proud to be their coach.”
The Warriors entered on back-to-back wins at West Central and LaVille after a delayed and slow start to the season.
“This is the team I believed we could be. They have a great deal of potential,” Johnson said. “We’re still at just the 11-game mark so we’ll have nine games in 19 days.”
Winamac hosts Argos on Monday.