DUNLAP – The Warsaw boys basketball team was written off by many to be in the chase for another Northern Lakes Conference championship this season following a shocking 28-20 home loss to Wawasee in the league opener back on Dec. 15.
This just in.
The talk of the Tigers’ demise may have been just a bit premature.
It’s time to count the resilient and improving Tigers back in the hunt for NLC supremacy.
Coach Doug Ogle’s team continued its recent upswing Friday night by crushing Concord 59-39 in NLC play in McCuen Gym.
Warsaw, winners of five in row, improves to 8-7 overall and goes to 3-1 in NLC action. Elkhart Memorial leads the wide-open, topsy-turvy NLC at 3-0, followed by Warsaw. Northridge is 2-1 with NorthWood and Plymouth each 2-2, and Concord, Goshen and Wawasee each 1-3.
Memorial plays at Northridge in a huge NLC matchup Saturday night. On Friday night, Goshen upended NorthWood 48-43 and Plymouth routed Wawasee 68-29 in conference play.
The Tigers, who saw their run of 21 straight league wins come crashing to a halt in the loss to Wawasee (which snapped a 42-game losing skid in the NLC with the win), continue to make strides.
Warsaw, which has won the last three NLC titles by being the first program in league history to go 7-0 three straight seasons, overwhelmed the Minutemen. The Tigers shot 57 percent from the field to send Concord to its fourth straight loss.
Nolan Groninger continued his stellar play of late with a game-high 15 points to lead the Tigers. The junior guard, who has scored in double figures in nine straight games, also dished out seven assists and had four rebounds. Groninger, who has led the Tigers in scoring in every game during the current win streak, was 7-8 from the free throw line and had just one turnover in an outstanding all-around floor game.
Warsaw’s Brian Elliott came off the bench to give his team a big spark. The sophomore netted 12 points, including a four-point play on one of his 3-pointers.
“We’re happy with this win and I’m encouraged,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “It’s palpable to see our sense of improvement. I feel we’re getting better as a basketball team and I’m happy for our players.
“It was Doomsday after we lost to Wawasee. Now we are 3-1 in the conference and right back in the thick of things. We’re a player in the NLC now again.”
Warsaw used a 7-0 run to close the opening period to take the lead for good at 11-5. The Tigers then took control of the game by outscoring Concord 20-10 in the second frame to lead 31-15 at halftime. Warsaw shot a blistering 11-15 from the field in the first half as Groninger and Elliott each had seven points.
Concord, which falls to 4-9 overall and 1-3 in the conference, shot a chilly 6-17 from the field in the opening half.
“I thought that we looked ready and we looked fresh tonight,” noted Ogle. “We shot the ball well, especially in the first half.
“I think that as we are becoming more experienced that our defense is getting better. We are guarding the 3-point line better now and our transition defense is better. We have been using a Toughometer (a points system used to measure things such as charges takes and offensive rebounds) that coach David Wayne came up with for about the last 7-8 games and I think that has been good for us.”
Warsaw never relented in the third period as a 19-10 scoring edge ballooned their lead to 50-25. The Tigers then coasted home to their third straight win over the Minutemen and fifth in the last seven meetings.
“Nolan played well tonight,” Ogle remarked. “He ran the show. He’s really picked it up for us in this stretch. Brian Elliott shot it well and I think that quietly Jaylen Reese has been a key guy for us. I thought that he set the tone tonight at the start with his offensive rebounding.”
Junior Jaylen Reese had eight points and senior Zach Riley and junior Tyler Metzinger seven each for the Tigers. Sophomore Blake Marsh added five points, junior Trevor Rumple three and senior Jack Rhoades two.
The duo of Riley and Metzinger each had six rebounds to lead Warsaw to a huge 31-13 edge on the glass.
Grant Magnuson, a 6-4 senior, led Concord with 11 points. Junior Drew McDougle added nine for Concord, which shot 14-38 from the field, including 6-21 from distance..
The Minutemen won the junior varsity game 54-40. Jaylen Coon had 19 points to lead the Tigers. Keegan Larsh scored 10 points and Wyatt Amiss had eight for Warsaw. William Hayes netted 17 points, Tieon Autry 14 and Shemari Southern 10 to pace Concord.
Warsaw plays at NorthWood and Concord travels to Wawasee in NLC games next Friday night. The Tigers will then finish out the NLC season with a game versus Memorial on Feb. 1 at North Side Gym in Elkhart and by hosting Plymouth on Feb. 9.