By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Being outscored 14-6 down the stretch spoiled the debut of first-year Northridge High School boys basketball coach Ronnie Thomas and made for a good first outing for Elkhart Central’s new coach Troy Noble.
The Raiders were up 48-46 with 6:25 left to play only to have the Central Blue Blazers go on an 8-0 run on the way to a 60-54 victory Wednesday evening at Northridge.
“We got a little careless with the ball,” Thomas said. “We tried to push the ball in transition a couple of times and ended up turning the ball over. We also didn’t get defensive stops when we needed them.”
Noble said, “We got the lead by getting the first rebound and not letting Northridge get second and third shots. About midway through the third period we started picking them up on defense around the 3-point line. The other thing we did was start playing more physical. Northridge pushed us around for 2 1/2 quarters. We were lucky to only be down by five points at halftime.”
Northridge (0-1) is at Westview Saturday night and Central (1-0) hosts Gary 21st Century on Tuesday.
The game featured two of the area’s better big men in 6-7 junior Nate Ritchie of Northridge and 6-5 senior John Stahl of Central. Ritchie tossed in a game-high 24 points while Stahl scored 18.
Seventeen of Ritchie’s points were in the first half as the Raiders opened a 31-26 advantage. Ten of Stahl’s points were in the second half and six came in the final 4:58.
“Stahl is an athletic and physical player,” Thomas said “Our kids battled him, but he still got some post positions on us that he shouldn’t have.”
Stahl played football this fall and he credits that with helping his basketball game.
“Football helped a lot,” he said. “It helped make me not only physically stronger but mentally stronger.
“We are going to be a better team this season. We are playing with more discipline.”
Central has another big man in 6-9 senior Brian Harter who didn’t get to play all that much.
“Ritchie is not a true post player. He just happens to be Northridge’s tallest player,” Noble said. “That made him a hard matchup for us. Stahl did a pretty good job on him.”
Free throws were an area that hurt the Raiders as the team was 8-of-19 from the charity stripe.
“I can’t fault the kids’ effort, but out focus has to be better,” Thomas said. “I liked our physical play. We need to be a little tougher and a little smarter about it.
“We had a great game plan and for the most part the kids executed it. We just didn’t do some of the little things as well down the stretch as we should have.”
Senior Joey Ganyard scored nine points, senior Austin Moniot and junior Sam Ahonen both eight and sophomore Pete Smith five for the Raiders.
Senior Terell Street was the leading scorer for Central with 20 points.
“Street is going to be a marked man and he is going to have to embrace that,” Noble said.