By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Ask any Indiana high school basketball coach what the goal is at sectional time, and you’re likely to get a variation of the same answer.
Survive and advance.
The Goshen Redskins did just that Tuesday night in their Class 4A Elkhart Sectional opener at North Side Gym, rallying to defeat familiar NLC foe Elkhart Memorial, 44-42.
Goshen trailed 35-32 entering the final period and outscored the Chargers 12-7 in the fourth. Free throws were key in the contest for the Redskins, who were 7-of-9 from the charity stripe on the night and a perfect 2-for-2 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
The win vaulted the Redskins (14-7) into Friday night’s sectional semifinals against another familiar NLC foe, Northridge. The Raiders (9-11) drew the opening-round bye.
Goshen coach Brian Bechtel said he would much prefer to be playing on Tuesday night.
“It’s important for a team to get on the court on Tuesday night,” Bechtel said.
North Side Gym, one of the host historic fieldhouses in the area, carries with it a certain ambiance, Bechtel said, and he felt his team did a good job of adapting to that in winning Tuesday night’s game.
But Goshen has scant time to savior Tuesday night’s victory. On Wednesday, it was back to work for Bechtel and his staff as they prepare a game plan for the Raiders.
Northridge lost seven games in a row at one point this season, but the Raiders have been playing much better basketball of late. Northridge closed the season winning six of its final eight games.
The Raiders are led by senior forward Nate Ritchie, an impact player. Ritchie is the second-leading scorer in Elkhart County at 19.1 ppg. Other key Northridge players include shooting guard Pete Smith, a 3-point threat; point guard Sam Ahonen and guard Joey Ganyard.
For Bechtel, the keys to victory Friday night are similar to the keys to victory Tuesday night against the Chargers.
“We have to take care of the basketball,” Bechtel said. The Redskins has 14 turnovers Tuesday night, much of that due to Memorial’s ball-hawking defensive style.
“We need to rebound well, select good shots, and make good passes,” Bechtel said.
Also important, Bechtel said, is playing with poise.
The Redskins’ sectional win Tuesday night will go a long way toward helping that particular effort, Bechtel said.
“The more experience you get playing in a sectional, the better you’ll play in a sectional,” Bechtel said.
The Redskins’ last sectional win prior to Tuesday night came in 2008, when they dispatched Concord, 59-41 before falling to Elkhart Central in the sectional semifinals.