March 13, 2014

Winamac Warriors ready for regional battle

By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune

---- — WINAMAC — Kyle Johnson knew his Winamac Warriors team had the makings of something special at the start of the season.

It just took awhile for them to find their footing. Or perhaps more accurately, their basketball legs after many of the players were members of the semistate football team that led to a late start to the basketball season.

With the late start to go with the horrendous weather this winter that led to several postponed games and missed practices, the Warriors have somehow found themselves amidst the chaos.

It may have been a stretch of February when they played 11 games in 22 days that the Warriors really forged together as a team. They went 8-3 in those games with the only losses being narrow decisions to Lewis Cass, Argos and Logansport. During that time they also won themselves the Midwest Conference title outright with a string of hard-fought league games, four of six of which were on the road.

The Warriors then knocked off Rensselaer twice in a row, the second of which was a sectional game on the road, before avenging an earlier loss to arch-rival North Judson with a 69-50 throttling in the sectional championship game.

The Warriors have won 9 of their last 10 games overall entering Saturday’s Class 2A North Judson Regional.

Winamac (14-8) faces No. 13-ranked Woodlan (18-6) at 11 a.m. EST Saturday at North Judson. The later semifinal pits No. 5 Hammond Bishop Noll (21-3) vs. Westview (20-4). The final is at 8:30 p.m. EST.

“Everything we’ve gone through has prepared us,” Johnson said.

The Warriors have a very balanced offensive attack, as Parker Fox (12.0 ppg) is the only player averaging in double figures. He is followed by Adam Gruenig (8.2), Colin McGee (6.9), Jeremy Bentle (6.8), Derek Dotlich (6.4), Dalton Button (5.1), Levi Schultz (4.5) and J.T. Garnett (4.3).

Even the Warriors’ rebounding is pretty spread out as Button leads the way at 5.1 per contest. Fox adds a team high 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

“We’re hard to scout because you never know who is going to be our leading scorer from one game to the next or who will make the big 3-pointer,” Johnson said. “We’ve got good balance inside and outside. We’ve got great ballhandlers. They’ve bought in more and more as the season has gone along. And it’s always nice to have good players.”

Playing at nearby North Judson could be an advantage for the Winamac as Woodlan has to travel about 120 miles from the northeast Fort Wayne area.

“We’ve had great fans all year that have fought through the weather and were there for us,” Johnson said.

Winamac won its 20th sectional title overall but the first in 12 years.

Winamac is facing a Woodlan team that recorded its first sectional title in 17 years with a 71-67 win over Fort Wayne Canterbury on Monday.

Greg White scored 18 points, Kadin Gerig had 17, Jaylin Bennett had 15 and Jeffery Jones added 12 for Woodlan.

Bennett is a 6-foot-5 Indiana State football recruit. Gerig is a 6-3 sharpshooter.

All four teams in the regional field have the Warriors nickname. Winamac fans are hoping it is their Warriors that come out on top, just like they did against Pioneer at the regional in football.