MIDDLEBURY – The gameplan was a very good one for the Warsaw boys basketball team Friday night.
The execution of it by the Tigers was even better.
Warsaw combined a dandy defensive effort with fabulous free throw shooting to down host Northridge 58-49 for a key Northern Lakes Conference win.
The Tigers shut down the top duo of Connor Utley and Nick Yoder of the Raiders and kept the hosts off the charity stripe.
Nolan Groninger tallied a team-high 18 points and was the main man at the line for the Tigers in the victory. The junior guard hit 8-9 from the stripe as Warsaw finished 19-23 from the line.
Junior Tyler Metzinger scored 10 points and the trio of sophomore Brian Elliott and seniors Deondre Adkins and Zach Riley each added eight points for the Tigers.
Warsaw improves to 5-7 overall and goes to 1-1 in NLC play. Northridge drops to 4-4 overall and also sits at 1-1 in league action.
Junior Jackson Erekson tossed in a game-high 25 points to pace the Raiders.
“You can tell that we are improving from our NLC opener three weeks ago until tonight,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “The win over Fishers last weekend was a good one, but this one is more meaningful. To come on the road and get an NLC win against a team that won its NLC opener at Goshen is a good thing for us.
“We looked like a basketball team tonight and that is gratifying. We said coming in that our goal was to hold Utley and Yoder, who were averaging 30 points-a-game, to 20 and they got 13. Our team defense on them was pretty good.
“We wanted to make their other guys beat us. We rolled the dice on Erekson a little bit, but he was like 5-20 on threes and he hit five tonight, but a couple of those were late in the game. We thought that him scoring more was better for us. I just thought that our guys did a good job with our gameplan on getting into Utley and Yoder. I was really happy with our defense on them.
“We also talked about how important free throws would be. Northridge was shooting about 82 percent as a team and averaging like 16 free throws a game. We outscored them 19-7 from the line tonight and that was big.”
Warsaw led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter and 20-13 at halftime. Groninger and Metzinger each scored six points in the opening half.
The Raiders battled back to get within 26-24 midway through the third period. The Tigers answered with an 11-2 run, keyed by six huge points by Adkins to build a 38-28 lead at the end of the stanza. Northridge would get no closer than the final margin in the final period as Groninger scored eight points in the fourth frame.
Warsaw shot 11-17 from the field and 15-19 from the free throw line in the final half.
“We shot it well in the second half,” noted Ogle. “We got off to a slow start with some turnovers and fouls early, but our guys just hung in there.
“Nolan has a good sense of how the game is flowing. He knows when to put the bit it his mouth and did that tonight.”
Senior Utley finished with 10 points and classmate Yoder with just three points. The pair combined to shoot just 4-14 from the field.
Warsaw was 19-34 from the field overall and 1-1 from 3-point range. The Raiders, who have now lost to Warsaw in their last five meetings, was 18-48 overall from the field, including 6-20 from distance, and 7-11 from the line.
Metzinger led Warsaw to a 30-21 rebounding edge with six caroms. Groninger had four assists for the Tigers.
NorthWood and Elkhart Memorial sit atop the NLC standings now at 2-0. Warsaw, which has won the last three NLC championships, is at 1-1, along with Northridge, Wawasee and Concord. Goshen and Plymouth are both 0-2. NorthWood beat Wawasee 55-34, while Concord topped Goshen 57-48 and Memorial stopped Plymouth 53-47 in other league games Friday night.
The Warsaw at Northridge game was the Channel 46 Game of the Week and can be seen again Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
Northridge won the junior varsity game 55-53 in double overtime. Keegan Larsh led Warsaw with 23 points. Noah Bohnenkamper scored eight points and Connor Lennox and Drew Yeager each had six for the Tigers. Carter Stoltzfus had 16 points and Carson Gangerr and Braden Yoder 10 each for the Raiders.
Warsaw hosts Goshen next Friday night in another NLC matchup. The Tigers then entertain Fort Wayne Snider Jan. 13.
Northridge plays at East Noble Tuesday night and at league foe NorthWood next Friday night.