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March 8, 2014

Warriors get past host Bombers to advance to final

RENSSELAER — Whether it was standing at the free throw line, the perimeter or in the paint, Rensselaer Central struggled to hit shots in its sectional semifinal matchup with Winamac Friday night at Joe Burvan Gymnasium.

The total number of misfires — 13 of 45 from the floor, including 1 of 16 from 3-point range, and 13 of 26 from the foul line — was the Bombers’ undoing in a 47-40 loss to the Warriors.

Winamac (13-8) advances to the sectional title game where it will face rival North Judson (13-8) at 8 p.m. EST tonight. The Bluejays held off 2-19 North Newton, 65-56, behind Jake Shabi’s 32 points.

The Bombers bow out at 13-10.

“I seriously think we played at a level to win this basketball game,” Bombers coach Kevin Sims said. “Our problem was when you’re 1 for 16 from 3-point range and you’re 13 of 26 from the free throw line, you’re in trouble. You’re not going to beat very many teams.”

Rensselaer missed its first 14 3-point baskets before Austin Fleming hit his team’s first shot from deep with 22 seconds left. That tightened the score at 46-40, but by then the Warriors were winning the game at the foul line.

Winamac was 12 of 19 on its free throws in the fourth period and finished 17 of 24 in the game. The Warriors needed every free shot they could get in the fourth; they missed all seven of their shots in the period.

“I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness tonight despite some good aggressive runs by Rensselaer,” Warriors coach Kyle Johnson. “We didn’t get too high or too low. We were even keel throughout the game and didn’t get bothered too much when they cut into our lead.”

A 7-0 run to start the game put Winamac ahead to stay, though the Bombers whittled the lead down to four points in the third period. Fleming, who had 10 points, helped bring the Bombers back with six points and Isaiah Valencia added five points, including two baskets off rebounds.

“That (7-0 run) bothered me, but I wasn’t panicked by it and I don’t think our kids were panicked by it. Once we scored, it was 12-6 by the end of the quarter and we were okay there. But we’ve got to be able to score the basketball. We had some great shots that just did not go in,” Sims said.

But Winamac withstood every surge by the Bombers and even extended the lead to double figures late in the fourth quarter. With Winamac holding a 35-31 lead in the third period, the Bombers turned the ball over on five straight possessions to deny them a chance at cutting further into the lead.

Parker Fox led Winamac with 10 points, including 6 of 8 free throws. Colin McGee added nine points, all coming in the first half.

Derek Dotlich had eight rebounds and Fox had three steals.

“Every time that lead got really pinched, our seniors and really our juniors, these guys have been through a lot the last couple of years,” Johnson said. “They stepped up and did some good things.”

Junior Joey Claussen had 12 points to lead the Bombers, but he was held to a free throw in the second half. Fleming had 10 rebounds and Dalton Souders had three steals.

The Bombers got little production from their perimeter shooters, who were a combined 2 of 21, including 1 of 12 from starting guards Bryce Deno and Chandler Gull.

“We get to the free throw line,” Sims said. “We get the ball inside and we score or go to the free throw line. I bet in 15 games this year we’ve shot at least 20 free throws in those games. We win when we hit 70 percent from the line, but tonight we really struggled there.”

Rensselaer lost junior reserve Devin DeWees to a head injury in the first quarter after getting his feet knocked out from under him while attempting to make a steal. DeWees was sent to the Jasper County Hospital Friday night.

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