ELKHART – It was all about the lines in the Elkhart Sectional opener Tuesday night.
Those lines were super fine for Goshen for sure.
The combination of Will Line and the forays by the RedHawks to the free throw line were just too much for Warsaw to handle.
The aggressive and crafty Line was brilliant in taking advantage of the 15-foot line as he scored a game-high 20 points to pace Goshen past the Tigers 58-45 in the opener of the Class 4-A tourney at North Side Gym.
Goshen, which had lost 53-35 at Warsaw back on Jan. 12, improves to 11-12 and advances to play Northridge (12-10) in the first semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. The RedHawks lost to Northridge 49-47 on Dec. 16.
Warsaw, the two time defending sectional champion, sees its season end at 11-12.
Sectional play continues Wednesday night with Elkhart Memorial (10-12) versus Plymouth (13-9) at 6 p.m., followed by Elkhart Central (9-12) against Concord (7-14). Those winners meet in the second semifinal game Friday night with the title game Saturday at 7 p.m. with the winner moving on to the Michigan City Regional on March 10.
Line was a difference maker all game long for Goshen. The 6-1 senior guard hit on 10-11 free throws as the RedHawks outscored Warsaw 20-6 from the line. He scored six huge points to spark a 9-0 Goshen run to end the third quarter. The pivotal point of the game turned a two-point Warsaw lead at 31-29 into a seven-point Goshen advantage at 38-31.
The Tigers could not recover. Goshen got big treys in the final frame from the trio of Brockton Yoder, Bryant Robinson and Philip Wertz and hit nine free throws, including five by Line.
Line, the leading scorer on the season for Goshen, had just eight points in the NLC loss to the Tigers six weeks ago. He made every big play Tuesday night, scoring at the end of the second and third quarters all for his confident team.
“Will Line was the difference in the game tonight,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “He was exceptional. We couldn’t contain him. He got to the line. He just played great tonight.
“When he plays like that they are formidable. Line was different tonight than the first time they played us. He was more aggressive. He got to the basket repeatedly. He was better than our individual defense. He was better than our team defense. It was 95 percent Will Line tonight and five percent other things.
“Goshen was just better than us tonight. They were really good. The fact that they outshot us 24-10 in free throws tells you all you need to know. They got the ball inside and they were more aggressive than we were for sure. Their defense was solid on us and they hit some timely threes.”
Warsaw, which had won the last five games versus Goshen dating back to a 46-45 loss in the sectional in 2014, was tied at 13-13 after the opening frame. The Tigers were up 18-15 midway through the second stanza before Goshen closed the half with a 10-2 run to lead 25-20. Line got a huge steal that he turned into a mammoth dunk and three-point play with 13.5 seconds left.
The Tigers shot just 9-23 from the field in the first half, including 0-6 from 3-point land.
Warsaw regrouped in the early part of the second half as the Tigers tallied the first five points to tie the game at 25-25. Brian Elliott sparked the surge and gave Warsaw a short-lived lead on a bucket inside that made it 31-29 with 2:35 to play in the third period. After a Goshen timeout, Line scored four points, Robinson hit a trey and Line scored on a drive with three seconds to play to seize the momentum for good. For good measure, Wertz hit a triple to start the final frame to cap a 12-0 run.
“Will needs the lights to be bright to be focused and this is tourney time,” said Goshen coach Michael Wohlford. “He’s an All-NLC player. The 12-0 run (to end the third quarter and start the fourth) was the game. We challenged the kids.
“We finished the game tonight. We’ve had an up and down season, but we have talent. We’ve been searching for what kind of team we need to be. Ever since our Westview game, we decided that we just need to play fast and play confident. We just needed to let the kids play.
“We put up 58 points tonight on a team giving up 47 a game. Warsaw just kicked out butt the first time we played them. I respect the heck out of Warsaw and coach Ogle. They do things the right way. That’s why this is so big for us.”
Goshen kept the ball rolling from the end of its season. The RedHawks ended the regular season with three straight wins, while Warsaw had lost four of its final five games.The Tigers, who shared the NLC title this season with Northridge, did enter postseason play 5-1 versus the rest of the sectional field.
Junior Nolan Groninger led the Tigers with 14 points. He was 6-15 from the floor, while being defended mainly by Line. Groninger also had seven rebounds to lead his team and six assists against just two turnovers from his point guard spot.
Sophomore Elliott canned 13 points and grabbed six caroms for Warsaw. Junior Jaylen Reese scored six points and senior Zach Riley had five. Junior Tyler Metzinger netted three points and senior Jack Rhoades and sophomore Blake Marsh each scored two.
Warsaw shot 19-48 overall from the field, including 1-9 from distance. The Tigers were 6-10 from the line, had 28 rebounds and seven turnovers.
Junior Bryant Robinson had 11 points for the RedHawks and a team-high seven rebounds.
Goshen shot 16-35 from the field and were 6-17 from deep. The RedHawks were 20-24 from the line and had 27 rebounds and seven turnovers.
Warsaw loses six seniors in Deondre Adkins, Dane Stookey, Jack Grose, Nick Marsh, Riley and Rhoades. Riley was the lone senior in the starting lineup Tuesday night.