by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
After dropping a close one at Logansport on Thursday night, the Winamac Warriors bounced back at home on senior night with an impressive win against the visiting Rensselaer Bombers, 56-45.
Winamac (12-8) may possibly face the Bombers (12-9) in their next game at the Class 2A Rensselaer Sectional. A win by the Bombers in their opening game against Delphi (9-11) would set up a rematch with the Warriors.
Emotions ran high Friday night as the senior players, cheerleaders, managers and statisticians were honored before the game. Those emotions carried over into the game as Winamac battled toe-to-toe with the talented Bombers. Rensselaer had speed and tried to force the pace of the game but every time they tried to dictate the pace the Warriors turned it up a notch themselves and simply outhustled the Bombers.
The opening quarter was fast paced and physical. Neither team made a cut or got to the basket without serious contact. By the end of the quarter nothing had been decided yet as both squads were looking at a 15-15 score.
The second frame saw the Warriors start to dictate the pace of the game and also a defense not wanting to surrender easy buckets. Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Warriors sharpshooter Adam Gruenig at the start of the quarter put some distance between the two squads. Also, Jeremy Bentle continued his improved play and proved to be a thorn in the Bombers’ side throughout the game. With Winamac playing a sticky man-to-man defense points were few for Rensselaer as Winamac took a 29-23 lead into the break.
After the intermission the Warriors slowly started to pull away from Rensselaer. A bomb from senior J.T. Garnett at the 3:40 mark gave Winamac their largest lead at that point at 36-27.
Parker Fox was able to break down the Bombers defenders and slash his was to the basket for some easy looks. When he drove the lane at the 1:41 mark his bucket gave Winamac a 41-31 lead. However, the Bombers were able to make a short 5-0 run to end the quarter and after three it stood at 41-36.
The 5-0 run that ended the third quarter seemed to have angered the Warriors defense. Nearly every shot was contested and when they tried getting the ball inside it was met by a host of Warriors. Points again became few for the visitors. With Fox continuing to get to the basket and Bentle continuing his inside play Rensselaer could get no closer than seven points in the final quarter as Winamac pulled away for the 56-45 win.
“It seems like it’s been game after game without any practice time in there but that’s kind of way the whole season’s been,” Garnett said. “Tonight was really big. It was a very meaningful win for us. We didn’t have a lot of time to focus on these guys. We played Logan last night and coach had us come in early to get plenty of shots and to talk about there personnel. It was just a huge team win.”
Bentle led the Winamac attack with a game-high 17 points. Gruenig added 12 points by nailing four from behind the arc. Fox chipped in nine of his own.
Rensselaer was led by Joey Claussen with 15 while Bryce Deno added 10.
“These guys just came ready to play tonight. They all came in and just wanted to show support for their seniors,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said, “J.T., Levi [Schultz] and Jeremy are everything I want this program to be about. Jeremy came in and had another big game for us. Just a great group of kids. Now I’m excited because the kids can get a little rest before sectional starts next week.”