RENSSELAER — Entering the tournament, the Winamac Warriors were playing their best basketball of the season.
Saturday night in the championship game of the Class 2A Rensselaer Sectional, the Warriors saved the best effort of the year in downing the Bluejays of North Judson 69-50 to win the sectional title.
It was the Warriors’ first sectional title since 2002 and 20th all time.
“A lot of people probably thought we’d never be here because of the way we played early in the season,” Winamac senior Levi Schultz said. “But we always knew that we had potential, tonight was just us being able to put it all together.”
Added senior J.T. Garnett, “It’s just awesome. This is just a huge team win. It wasn’t one guy carrying us it was all of us together. We’ve worked so hard all year and we deserve this.”
Winamac (14-8) will face Monday’s winner between Fort Wayne Canterbury and Woodlan at 11 a.m. EST next Saturday at the North Judson Regional. No. 5 Hammond Noll (21-3) will play Westview (20-4) in the later semifinal.
A swarming, suffocating defense lifted Winamac to the championship along with a patient offense fueled by a total team effort. There were no individual heroes for the Warriors as this was everyone contributing.
The game began with the Bluejays (13-9) scoring the first points of the game. From there on out it was all Winamac as the Warriors went on a 9-0 run and never looked back. With Winamac playing such an aggressive defense fouls soon started to add up against the Warriors. A 3-point basket by Parker Fox at the 1:41 mark gave the Warriors a 17-5 lead. Unable to get anything going against Winamac North Judson found itself in a 17-7 hole after one quarter of play.
Both squads seem to tighten up defensively in the second frame. Fouls continued against Winamac and thanks to numerous trips to the free-throw line Judson was able to get back to within 20-19 with 3:26 left before the half. The Warriors response was a 6-0 run with Colin McGee starting to get established inside. With the Warriors continuing their sticky play on defense they took a 30-20 lead into the break. In the first half North Judson made just three field goals and was 11-17 from line.