By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — NORTH JUDSON — The Winamac Warriors’ championship run came to an end Saturday night at the Class 2A North Judson Regional.
Winamac ran into a strong Westview team in the regional title game and couldn’t seem to find the magic that led to a win over Woodlan in the morning semifinal.
Westview ended Winamac’s season with a 69-53 win to claim its first regional title since 2008.
Westview (22-4) will face No. 7 Lewis Cass next Saturday in the northern semistate game. Winamac finishes 15-9.
The Warriors have to settle for a season that included winning Midwest Conference and sectional championships and finishing as a regional finalist. They won their first sectional title since 2002 and first regional game since 1997.
“They just battled. To make it to the regional championship, it’s hard to celebrate right now but they had a heck of a year and the future looks bright,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said.
Winamac got off to a good start against Westview in building an 8-0 lead over the first four minutes of the contest.
“We got off to that lead and obviously that just said that we belonged. We were right where we needed to be,” Johnson said.
Westview started chipping away at the lead and tied the game at 11-all after one quarter.
Westview continued its efficient play in the second quarter and build up a 29-20 at halftime.
It was more of the same for Westview in the third quarter. Even when 6-foot-3 senior Judah Zickafoose went to the bench with his fourth foul with 4:59 left in the third, Westview kept building its lead and led 45-31 entering the fourth.
“They had quite a few threats,” Johnson said. “We were blessed that we got them in foul trouble as well which took some of that away, but their threats were very patient. Their 3-point shooters would wait, they didn’t want to just keep chucking it up, they would wait until they got a good look and when they did they would capitalize. We weren’t able to capitalize in the same areas.”
Winamac also battled foul trouble throughout. Sophomore starter Colin McGee fouled out with 2:31 left in the third quarter. Junior standout Parker Fox, who scored 34 points in the win over Woodlan, fouled out with 6:41 left in the fourth with Winamac trailing by 16. He finished with a team-high 14 points.
Winamac has shown the ability to strike fast late and the Warriors got as close as 57-48 after two Levi Schultz free throws with 2:31 left to play. Adam Gruenig hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the run and J.T. Garnett scored on an inbounds play right before Schultz’s steal led to his free throws.
But Westview closed the game out at the foul line, hitting 10 straight in the final 2:11. Westview went 21 of 26 from the line for the game.
Chandler Aspy, another 6-3 senior, led four Westview players in double figures with 16 points. Jordyn Bontrager scored 15, Jamar Weaver had 14 on three 3-pointers and Zickafoose added 10.
Derek Dotlich (12 points), Gruenig (11) and Dalton Button (10) joined Fox in double figures for Winamac.
But the Warriors didn’t have the execution on the offensive end they had in the first game of the day and they missed on some good looks when they did.
“We just didn’t have enough movement,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it was dead legs or anything like that. It was a big moment and we just didn’t have enough back-side action offensively and we did a little bit more standing.
“We got caught up in some of the areas we’ve struggled with in the past and that was fouls and getting them to the free-throw line and they did a pretty good job at the free-throw line. We obviously had to foul at the end trying to see if we can make a run.”
Going into the game Winamac had won 10 of 11 games.
The Warriors will have a lot back next year.
“I think the future is very bright. We’ve got a lot of kids who played in this sectional and regional who were young kids,” Johnson said. “The JV team went 17-3 and a lot of those kids that played a lot of those minutes are going to be back. I’m going to bank on that experience and just keep getting everybody better individually.”
The Warriors will graduate three seniors — Schultz, Garnett and Jeremy Bentle.
“We’ll definitely miss those seniors,” Johnson said. “They have helped build a foundation for Winamac basketball and I’m going to do my best to keep building it.”
w/ scorebox: Westview 69, Winamac 53. Next: Warriors finish 15-9.