ELKHART – Jared Bloom was willing to do whatever it took Saturday night to bring a sectional basketball championship back home to Warsaw.
Fortunately for the Tigers, the senior star was not only winning, but also more than able.
Bloom, as cool as the other side of the pillow, poured in a career-high 33 points as the Tigers topped Northridge 64-57 in the title tilt of the Class 4-A Elkhart Sectional.
Junior Jordan Stookey, who hit the game winning 3-pointer at the final buzzer to stun Concord 41-39 in triple overtime Friday night, had 12 points for the Tigers. Sophomore Rashaan Jackson scored nine and senior Taylor Cone seven for the champions. Senior Jason Ferguson chipped in with three points.
Warsaw (13-10) advances to play South Bend Adams (21-2) in the first semifinal game of the Class 4-A Michigan City Regional next Saturday at 11 a.m. (ET). Adams ran right past Penn 93-71 Saturday night to win the Mishawaka Sectional title. Munster will play Merrillville in the second regional semifinal at Michigan City. The semifinal winners return Saturday night to face off in the regional title tilt at 8:30 p.m.
Nate Richie, a smooth 6-7 junior, scored 21 points to lead Northridge, which finishes at 10-12. Senior Joey Ganyard had 13 points and sophomore Pete Smith 11 for the Raiders.
Bloom, the hero of Warsaw’s improbable three-game march to its 38th overall sectional title and first since 2010, was simply sensational Saturday night in historic North Side Gym. The clutch senior guard canned 9-of-12 shots, including 3-of-4 from deep, and went 12-of-14 from the free throw line in another amazing performance. He scored 19 of his points in the second half, including eight in the pivotal third period when Warsaw outscored the Raiders 18-9 to erase a two-point halftime deficit.
“I just wanted this so bad,” said Bloom, moments after accepting the sectional championship trophy and celebrating with his teammates and a host of Tiger fans. “This means everything to me. It’s unbelievable. A sectional championship is what I’ve dreamt of.
“It takes a team to win this and we were going to come out tonight and give everything we had. It came from within tonight. We were not going to survive winning both those sectional overtime games and not win the sectional tonight.
“I just knew in the second half that I had to do something to take over. I wanted to put my team on my back no matter how I did it. Tonight they needed me to score.”
Score the senior star, who hit the game winning free throw versus Central Tuesday night in the sectional opener in double overtime, surely did.
Bloom, who had 25 points including the game winning shot in a 43-41 home win over Northridge back on Jan. 4, was nearly unstoppable. He scored 11 points in the final period as the Tigers used an 11-3 run, capped by two free throws by Bloom after a technical on Raider coach Ronnie Thomas with 1:46 to play, to break a 46-46 tie. Stookey hit a key jumper to start the run and give Warsaw the lead for good at 48-46 with 4:07 to play and then drained a huge trey with 2:11 remaining to make it 55-49.
“This is quite an accomplishment for our guys,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle, who saw his team beat Central in two overtimes Tuesday night and then outlast Concord in three extra sessions before the finale. “I believed they could do this and they believed they could do it. We stuck together throughout the season and good things happen when you stick together.
“Bloom is our best player and he was really good in these three sectional games for us. He shot an incredible percentage from the floor. He just played really well, especially tonight.
“Jordan hit a huge three there late in the game and Jackson gave us some nice offense in the second half. I think we were more physical tonight and wore Northridge down. Our rebounding was big in the second half.
“I think the five overtimes we played in the first two games just bolstered our aerobic conditioning,” he added with a big grin.
Northridge, which finishes at 10-12, came out blazing to open the finale. Richie poured in 13 of his team’s first 14 points before picking up a critical second foul with 42 seconds left in the opening stanza and going to the bench. The Raiders led 16-11 after the opening quarter. Richie returned with 3:53 left in the second period and his team up 20-18. The Raiders led 26-24 at halftime as Richie had 15 points and Ganyard 11. Bloom kept the Tigers in it with 14 in the opening half, while Cone was key early with six points in the first quarter.
“I just wasn’t sure how much energy and emotion we would have tonight after those five overtimes and we came out a little flat to start, especially on defense,” Ogle said. “Ritchie was really good for them early on. I challenged our guys during a timeout in the second quarter to play better defensively and they did. Our offense was very good in the first half.”
The Tigers got it going even better in the key third quarter. Bloom scored eight points and Jackson and Stookey each had five. Meanwhile, Richie was limited to just one basket as Warsaw rallied to take a 42-35 lead. Bloom put the dagger in with a long triple from the top of the key to cap the quarter and then posed with his shooting hand held high as he backpedaled back down the floor as the quarter ended.
“It felt really good at that point to know that the sectional championship was within our reach,” said Bloom of his nothing but net trey.
Bloom entered play Saturday night as Warsaw’s top scorer at 17.1 points-per-game.
Stookey played a strong game with five rebounds and a team-high six assists.
“It means a lot to me,” said Stookey of the sectional title. “Every basketball player dreams of winning a sectional championship, especially at Warsaw. It was our will to want to win this that enabled us to do it. We wanted this bad. We had so many close losses this season. We believed we could do this. It was just about working hard to accomplish it.”
The final quarter saw things get testy on both sides, unfortunately. After the cheap technical call on first-year Northridge coach Ronnie Thomas with 1:46 to play, a long delay came with 1:35 to play after a skirmish underneath the Raider basket resulted in a long conference among the three officials. When things were finally sorted out, technical fouls were called on both Jackson of Warsaw and Austin Moniot of Northridge.
The Raiders made one final last gasp as they got within 60-54 with 1:13 to play on a basket by Sam Ahonen. Jackson then hit a free throw and Bloom made 3-of-4 in the final minute to seal the deal and the championship for the Tigers.
Warsaw shot 19-of-34 from the field, including 11-of-17 in the second half. The Tigers hit 5-of-9 from deep and were 21-of-29 from the line. Cone had a team-high seven rebounds and Jason Ferguson six as the Tigers ourtrebounded the Raiders 28-21.
Northridge shot 20-of-47 for the game, but were just 9-of-24 in the final half. The Raiders went an abysmal 3-of-18 from distance and were 14-of-19 from the line. Richie, who was 8-of-12 from the field, led his team with six rebounds.
The Raiders, who had won seven of their last nine games prior to Saturday night, have now lost five in a row to Warsaw. Northridge graduates five seniors, including starters Moniot and Ganyard.