By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The path to the NECC title could be going through Ligonier this Friday when the West Noble Chargers (14-1, 7-0 NECC) host the Westview Warriors (14-1, 7-0).
Both teams have two conference games left after this one. West Noble hosts Hamilton (5-10, 1-5) on Friday, Feb. 15 and has a trip to Angola (6-8, 2-3) on Saturday, Feb. 16. Westview has home dates with Prairie Heights (8-9, 3-3) on Thursday, Feb. 7 and Fremont (8-6, 3-3) on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The Warriors and Chargers have already played this season with Westview winning 59-50 at West Noble in the semifinals of the NECC tournament on Jan. 11.
“West Noble has good size and a variety of players that can shoot from the outside so we are going to have to be really good on defense,” Westview coach Rob Yoder said. “Our defense has been fairly consistent and we have not given up a lot of points. Our focus has been pretty good.”
The Warriors’ defense is allowing an average of 41.0 points per game and only four teams have scored 50-or-more points in a game. The high is in an 81-73 triple-overtime time win against Northridge.
Leading scorers for the Warriors are 6-4 senior Kyle Miller 15.7 ppg, 6-3 sophomore Chandler Aspy 12.5, 5-10 junior Jordyn Bontrager 11.7 and 6-3 senior Nic Raber 8.9.
“West Noble played a lot more zone against us than they have in other games,” Yoder said. “I’m expecting to see some zone and also some man-to-man.
“We have to make sure we are getting good shots both inside and outside. We can’t just rely on jump shots from the perimeter.”
Top scorers for West Noble are 6-3 junior Drew Schermerhorn 14.7 ppg, 6-5 junior Keith Gibson 10.7, 5-7 senior Nick Thomas 9.0 and 6-7 senior Nick Noe 8.2.
The Concord Minutemen (13-1, 6-0) NLC) clinched at least a share of the conference title last week in a combination of their 82-43 win over Wawasee and NorthWood’s 67-51 loss at Warsaw. Concord is at NorthWood (11-4, 3-2) on Saturday.
“This should be a good test for us to see if we can close out the NLC undefeated,” Concord coach Steve Austin said. “NorthWood is a big team and they do a lot of things on offense and defense that concern me.”
Concord has won five in a row since suffering a 72-70 loss at South Bend Clay on Jan. 8.
“It is no surprise that Concord has played well this year. They are deep with quality players are all positions,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “Concord is in the driver’s seat of the NLC so our players need to focus on playing a strong game versus a quality opponent.”
NorthWood had won five straight before dropping three in a row.
“When you get a few losses you get more fired up,” Austin said.
“That is one of the things that concerns me. The same thing happened to us in the Clay game. Clay looked terrible the game before (65-38 loss to South Bend Washington) and then were all fired up for us.”
The Minutemen are led in scoring by 6-6 senior Franko House 15.7, 6-5 sophomore Filip Serwatka 13.0, 5-8 junior Ramon Johnson 9.0, 6-2 junior Adam Glanders 8.6 and 6-3 senior DuWhan Alford 6.3.
“Concord is very good and their combination of quickness, strength, skill and experience provides their opponents a great challenge,” Wolfe said.
Experience could be a factor.
“We are mostly seniors while NorthWood has a lot of juniors,” Austin said. “Hopefully that experience will carry us through.”
NorthWood is paced in scoring by 6-5 junior Zach Zurcher 18.6 ppg, 6-5 junior Jonathan Wilkinson 16.4, 6-2 senior Tommy Klem 8.6, 5-7 junior Kyle McCoy 6.5 and 5-9 junior Tanner Farmwald 6.3.
“NorthWood likes to push the ball up the floor,” Austin said. “We are going to have to be aware of that. We can’t let them being down there scoring a basket when we are at half court thinking about setting up our defense.
“On offense we need to be attacking the basket while being patient and realizing what we are doing. NorthWood likes to mix its defenses.”
The Minutemen have won the last two times they have played at the Panther Pit since suffering a 77-69 loss in the 2006-07 season.
“I like playing there. It’s a good shooting environment,” Austin said.
In another NLC game on Saturday, the Wawasee Warriors (4-10, 0-5) host the Northridge Raiders (6-9, 2-3). Six-one sophomore Alex Clark is averaging 14.6 ppg to lead the Warriors in scoring.
Six-five junior Chase Myers is at 7.3, 5-9 sophomore Gage Reinhard 6.9 and 6-0 freshman Jeffrey Moore 5.5. Six-seven junior Nate Ritchie at 18.9 ppg leads the Raiders. Other top scorers are 6-1 junior Sam Ahonen 8.9, 5-9 sophomore Pete Smith 8.1 and 6-1 senior Joey Ganyard 6.0.
The Bethany Christian Bruins (3-11) travel to Elkhart Christian Academy (10-5) on Friday.
They two have already played this season with the ECA Eagles posting a 69-37 win in the championship game of the Bethany holiday tourney.
Bethany is playing just its third game since Jan. 7 (61-54 loss to Bremen).
“The Bremen game might have been the best we have played all season,” Bethany coach Jim Buller said.
“Our two games since then we have not been in shooting form and we have gotten tired in the fourth quarter.”
Leading scorers for the Eagles are 6-2 junior Ryan Kupferschmid 19.6 ppg, 6-2 junior Tanner Watson 11.4, 5-11 junior Kenny Bearss 10.1 and 6-3 senior Tyler VanArsdale 7.6.
In the earlier meeting, 6-2 junior Cory Waycaster was still at ECA but he has since transferred to Jimtown. Caleb Stayton has joined the Eagles and is averaging 6.3 in four games.
“ECA is a different team without Waycaster, but they are still loaded,” Buller said. “Kupferschmid in quite a player and Bearss is fast, athletic point guard.
“Stayton is a big, athletic kid that brings a winning attitude to the team.”
Top scorers for the Bruins are 6-2 senior Caleb Morris 12.9 ppg, 6-0 sophomore Sol Brenneman 11.4, 6-3 junior Abe Thorne 8.43 and 5-11 senior Isaac Schertz 5.4.
Buller pointed out one difference between the two squads.
“The Eagles have a lot of players that basketball is their main sport while we have a lot of soccer players that are trying to do something else,” the coach said.