The sectional pairings for the 104th annual IHSAA boys basketball state tournament have given the Warsaw Tigers what coach Doug Ogle called “renewed team spirit.”
Tournament play gets underway Tuesday at 64 sites around the state.
Warsaw, which won three thrilling postseason games last year before falling by two points in the regional semifinals, begins its quest Tuesday for a fifth sectional title in eight seasons.
The Tigers, who posted an 11-9 mark in the regular season, play the Goshen Redskins at 7:30 p.m. in Class 4A Sectional 4 action at North Side Gym in Elkhart.
Concord and Elkhart Memorial open the six-team sectional Tuesday with a 6 p.m. game.
Northridge, the sectional favorite after winning the Northern Lakes Conference with a 7-0 record and going 18-2 overall, plays at 6 p.m. Friday against either Concord or Memorial.
The winner of the Warsaw/Goshen game plays Elkhart Central Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The championship game is scheduled for Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Michigan City Regional to play the winner of the South Bend Washington Sectional on March 15.
“Us, Goshen and Elkhart Central have to feel good about the draw because we could have had to beat both Concord and Northridge,” said Ogle. “So that part is good, Concord, Northridge and Elkhart Memorial, the two best teams in the sectional and a team playing on its home floor, are in the other side of the bracket.”
The Tigers are 2-3 this season against the other teams in the sectional.
Warsaw beat Elkhart Central 71-37 on Jan. 14 and beat Goshen 48-41 on Jan. 17.
In both of those wins, junior Rashaan Jackson, Warsaw’s most athletic and physical player, was in the lineup.
Because of an athletic code violation, Jackson hasn’t played since a 49-44 loss to Fort Wayne Snider on Jan. 18.
In his absence, the Tigers are 2-5, and during that span lost to possible sectional opponents Concord (49-25) and Elkhart Memorial (59-53).
Warsaw lost 58-56 on a buzzer-beater at Northridge on Jan. 10, a game in which Jackson scored 15 points in the first quarter.
“We did get a favorable draw. That, combined with a good week last week, has renewed our team spirit,” said Ogle. “We’re glad to be on the opposite side of the bracket as Concord and Northridge. For us to win the sectional, we don’t have to play perfect, but we have to play well all three games. We have a very small margin for error.”
While Warsaw was without one of its best players down the stretch of the regular season, Goshen got one of its standouts back, as sophomore point guard Brady Bechtel returned from an injury.
“They’re playing a lot better,” Ogle said of Goshen. “It’ll be a lot different than the first game. Bechtel is back. He’s their point guard, their quarterback. I know he’s only a sophomore, but he means so much to their team. We’re going to have to play well to get to Friday.”
Senior Jordan Stookey leads the Tigers in scoring with 13 points per game, while junior Jake Mangas averages nine and senior Nate Pearl and junior Tim Swanson chip in with nearly seven points per game.
In 13 games this season, Jackson was averaging 11 points and nearly four rebounds.
“We’ve started to figure some things out with our new lineup,” said Ogle. “The triumvirate of Moses Marandet, Riley Rhoades and Kyle Mangas has been making an impact. We need them to continue to contribute.”