By Mike Deak
WARSAW – If you would have asked Warsaw boys basketball head coach Matt Moore if he thought his team could string three wins together in mid-January, he might have paused to check his answer.
After a current eight-game win streak heading into the Elkhart Sectional, Moore’s Tigers are rolling, which include impressive wins at Elkhart and home wins over very good Mishawaka and Chesterton squads.
Warsaw (15-7) tied for the Northern Lakes Conference championship, sharing the title at 6-1 overall with Mishawaka. The Tigers were part of possibly the most impressive win of the conference season, a 15-point wallop of Northridge where the Tigers held the Raiders 23 points under their season average. But a couple weeks later, the NLC took notice when Concord visited the Tiger Den and upset Warsaw 37-33.
Warsaw went through its first 14 games where it didn’t win or lose more than two straight, giving Moore pause on whether or not his team could find its consistency. But after a win at LaPorte on Jan. 23, which was a response to the shocking loss to a then-two win Concord side the night before, started its longest streak since a seven-gamer in 2019.
Where Warsaw has to take caution is the sectional historically has eaten up the favorites. A Kyle Mangas-led and 18-win Warsaw team in 2015 was held to just 28 points in a shocking upset by Concord, an undefeated 2009 Northridge team getting worked by Memorial in the first round, or a very good Memorial team taking one on the chin from Goshen in 2017.
The sectional pits the top two teams, Warsaw and Northridge, on opposite sides. Warsaw’s bye to the Friday semi-final will see either Concord or Elkhart, while the Raiders will get either Al Rhodes and Penn or Goshen.
At the root of Warsaw’s success this season are sophomores Judah Simfukwe and Jaxon Gould. The two are combining to score 28 points a night, Simfukwe a 60 percent shooter and Gould at 50 percent. The two are also hovering around 80 percent from the free throw line, and Gould has added five rebounds, three assists and two steals per night. Gould has a pair of game winners in his bag as well, including a memorable drop at the buzzer to help Warsaw beat Lake Central in overtime and hitting the winner at the venerable North Side Gym to best sectional rival Elkhart.
Ben Bergen and Jackson Dawson have also been vital to Warsaw’s run this season, both crossing over the 100-point mark in Warsaw’s win over Wabash, and Dawson is four rebounds behind Gould for the team lead (107), his 43 offensive caroms leading the team.
Bishop Walters contributes 5.6 points per game and a pair of rebounds, but is a threat to score from outside, hitting 27 threes in 18 games.
Caleb Sands, Russ Winchester, Graydon Barth and Kyle Dawson have all found points of contribution, and Drew Heckaman has moved up from the JV to give Warsaw yet another scoring threat.