ELKHART – The Warsaw boys basketball team staged a remarkable rally to put itself in position to win a first-round sectional game Tuesday night.
Goshen’s D.J. Ambrose spoiled the comeback though by being in position at the end to lift the Redskins to a thrilling victory.
Ambrose, known for his work on the defensive end of the court for the Redskins, scored his only basket of the game on a rebound putback with two seconds to play as Goshen edged the Tigers 46-45 in the Class 4-A Elkhart Sectional.
Goshen (12-9) advances to play host Elkhart Central (5-15) in the second semifinal game Friday night at approximately 7:30 p.m. Concord (13-8) will meet Northridge (18-2) in the first semifinal contest at 6 p.m. Friday.
Central defeated Goshen 52-47, while the Raiders topped Northern Lakes Conference foe Concord 62-59 in regular-season meetings.
Concord topped Elkhart Memorial 70-53 in the sectional opener Tuesday night. Ramon Johnson scored 23 points and Filip Serwatka 17 to pace the Minutemen. Tra’von Qualls netted 19 points and Cameron Maxwell 18 for Memorial, which finishes at 8-13.
The defending sectional champion Tigers, who used an 12-1 run to erase a 10-point deficit to take a 45-44 lead, finishes its season at 11-10.
Ambrose rebound basket, which was also his only shot attempt and lone rebound of the night, came on the weak side after a missed 3-pointer by Deric Haynes.
“Ambrose made a great play for them,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “It’s disappointing to get the lead late and then lose it like that. But, I was proud of how we fought back to get the lead after being down 10.”
Goshen coach Brian Bechtel said it was no accident that Ambrose, a 5-11 senior, came up with the game winner.
“It was not a fluke that D.J. was there for that rebound basket,” said Bechtel. “He works hard at positioning and that was a big basket. It’s hard to block out when you play zone. It’s the second shot that beats you a lot of times.”
“But, I want to talk about his defense on Jordan Stookey in the first half. That was a big key for us. D.J. took our game plan and followed it.”
The Tigers trailed 43-33 with 2:45 left in the game after a bucket by Goshen’s Jack Gingerich. Warsaw rallied with pressure defense, a huge 3-pointer by Nate Pearl and four free throws by Jordan Stookey. The last two charity tosses by Stookey with 1:24 cut the Goshen lead to 44-43. Brady Bechtel then missed a free throw with 49.1 seconds to play and Stookey gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 45-44 lead on a pull-up jumper on the baseline with 26 seconds left.
Goshen, which avenged a 48-41 regular-season loss at Warsaw, called timeout with 12.6 seconds to play. Haynes then lofted a 3-pointer from the right wing that bounced off the rim to Ambrose for the game winner. The Tigers did not get off a final shot before the horn sounded.
“That was a really good stretch for us,” said Ogle of the 12-1 run. “We rattled them and made shots. We can be proud of that stretch that got us the lead.”
The difference in the game was the 3-point shooting. Goshen drained 8-17 from distance, including a clutch 4-7 by Gingerich, while Warsaw was just 1-11.
“It comes down to making shots and Goshen hit threes at crucial times tonight,” Ogle said. “They hit shots. I said if they shoot it well that it would be difficult for us to beat them and they did. We shot too many threes tonight. I said we needed to shoot 6-8 and we go 1-11.”
Gingerich, a junior guard, led the Redskins with 16 points. Standout sophomore guard Brady Bechtel, who did not play in the loss at Warsaw due to a knee injury, had 12 points. Goshen is now 9-2 with Bechtel, the son of coach Bechtel, in the lineup this season.
The Redskins entered the game having won seven of their last eight games. Warsaw had went just 2-5 since junior starter Rashaan Jackson was suspended for a violation of the athletic code.
“We came in tonight knowing we would have to hit threes,” said Bechtel. “Jack stepped up and did a great job for us. I told our coaches we were going to make 10 of them tonight and we came close.
“The thing with Brady back is just that everyone has a lot more confidence. It’s the leadership he brings and we are a lot more versatile with him out there. We played not to lose in that stretch late in the game, but we survived. That’s what the sectional is all about.”
Goshen raced to a 9-2 lead to open the game on a trio of treys. The Redskins led 13-8 after the opening period as both Gingerich and Bechtel scored five points. Warsaw rallied in the second quarter with an 8-0 run, sparked by Jake Mangas, to tie the game at 16-16 as Goshen went scoreless for 4:16. The Redskins then outscored the Tigers 8-0 over the final 3:35 to lead 24-16 at halftime.
Junior Jake Mangas led the Tigers with 15 points. Senior Stookey finished with 14, including eight in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Paul Marandet netted seven points, sophomore Riley Rhoades four, senior Pearl three and junior Tim Swanson two.
Warsaw shot 16-33 overall from the field and 12-14 from the free throw line.
Gingerich tallied 16 points and Bechtel 12 to pace Goshen. Haynes added nine points. The Redskins were 15-31 overall from the field and 8-15 from the line.
Both teams committed just five turnovers in the contest.
Warsaw loses three seniors in Stookey, Pearl and Moses Marandet.