WARSAW – Warsaw boys basketball coach Doug Ogle knows that history can repeat itself.
That’s the scenario he hopes to play out again in the Class 4-A Elkhart Central Sectional.
The Tigers staggered into postseason play a year ago at 10-10 and with no one giving them much of a chance to take home the hardware.
Warsaw, when the dust had settled at historic North Side Gym, had pulled off three incredible wins, including one in triple overtime and another in double overtime, to claim the 38th sectional championship in the rich history of Tiger basketball.
Ogle has seen his team struggle again late this season, losing six of their final eight games to finish at 11-9.
Could it be deja vu for the Tigers as they enter sectional play?
“I think our players believe it because we lived it last year,” said Ogle of the chances of repeating last year’s amazing tourney performance. “It’s cliche, but it’s the tourney and anything can happen. Any team in our sectional in a given situation can beat anyone.
“The sectional is a new deal and it’s different. We lost five of our last six games going into the sectional last year. All it takes is one win to get your Mojo back, to get your confidence back.”
“I don’t think there will be any pressure on us and that makes us a dangerous team to play. There will be more pressure on our sectional opponent. I wouldn’t want to play us necessarily in the sectional.”
Warsaw will face Goshen Tuesday night in the second game on the opening night at North Side Gym at 7:30 p.m. The Tigers beat the Redskins 48-41 at home in a Northern Lakes Conference contest on Jan. 17. Goshen, though, was without standout guard Brady Bechtel that night due to a knee injury. The Redskins come into the sectional hot, winning seven of their final eight game to finish at 11-9. Goshen won 75-65 at West Noble Friday night as senior Deric Haynes scored a career high 30 points and Bechtel had 16.
“There’s no question that Goshen is a better team now with Bechtel back,” said Ogle, who scouted the Redskins as they beat South Bend St. Joseph 61-52 at Goshen this past Tuesday night. “I also think that we did not shoot the ball very well against them the first time.”
The Tigers started the season strong at 9-3 before hitting a five-game losing skid. Warsaw lost four of those contests after junior Rashaan Jackson was suspended for an athletic code violation. The athletic 6-2 forward was averaging 10.9 points-per-game and his suspension was reported to be 10 games, which means he will miss the sectional. The Tigers did snap their losing streak with a 52-47 win over Class 1-A No. 4 Elkhart Christian Feb. 18 and then beat Luers 73-46 Feb. 21 before losing at Fort Wayne Carroll 44-40 Friday night.
“We have a very thin margin for error,” admitted Ogle, whose team is only averaging about 50 points-per-game. “We are capable of shooting the ball well and handling it well. That’s what we have to do in the sectional.”
Warsaw was 2-3 versus the sectional field during the regular season. The Tigers beat Elkhart Central (71-37) and Goshen (48-41) and lost to Elkhart Memorial (59-53), Concord (49-25) and Northridge (58-56).
Northridge, which has never won a Class 4-A sectional, enters the sectional as the team to beat. The Raiders, who are 18-2, have won eight in a row entering postseason play. Both of the losses for Northridge were to a Penn team ranked No. 6 in Class 4-A and sporting a 19-1 season mark.
The draw is a good one for the Tigers, who would play Elkhart Central (5-15) in a semifinal game if they defeat Goshen Tuesday night.
“I think Northridge is the best team in the sectional and you have to look at them as the favorite,” Ogle said. “But, Concord is pretty close and Goshen is much better now with (Brady) Bechtel back and Memorial got a huge boost with the addition of the Qualls kid, who transferred from Central.”
“I think it’s a good place for us to be in the opposite bracket from Northridge and Concord. It was good for our guys to have success and win those games over Elkhart Christian and Luers. It was good for our confidence and boosted our spirits.”
The Tigers are led by senior Jordan Stookey. The 6-2 guard, who was one of the heroes of last year’s sectional title run, averages team-highs of almost 13 points and four rebounds per game and paces Warsaw in assists.
Warsaw has also counted on junior Jake Mangas up front, along with senior Nate Pearl, junior Tim Swanson and sophomore Paul Marandet in the backcourt. Kyle Mangas, a 6-0 freshman guard, could be a wild card for the Tigers. Mangas scored nine points in 19 minutes versus Elkhart Christian in just his fifth varsity appearance this season. Adding depth are the quartet of juniors Peyton Long and Cameron Hoskins at guards and senior Moses Marandet and sophomore Riley Rhoades in the frontcourt.
The status of Pearl, one of the Tigers’ top shooters, is a question mark for Tuesday night. The senior guard missed the game at Carroll Friday night due to the flu.