ELKHART – Warsaw’s Jordan Stookey added his name to the list of Hoosier Hysteria hoops heroes Friday night.
Stookey, as the calendar flipped to March, capped the madness with a dramatic, game-winning 3-pointer as the Tigers stunned Concord 41-39 in a semifinal contest of the Elkhart Sectional.
Stookey’s running trey just before the final horn at the end of the third overtime session seemed to stick on the back of the rim before falling through the net.
The game winner sends the Tigers (12-10) into the Class 4-A sectional championship game Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. versus Northridge (10-11). The Raiders beat Goshen 62-46 in the second semifinal contest Friday night.
The Elkhart Sectional winner advances to the Michigan City Regional March 9 to play the Mishawaka Sectional champion in the first semifinal game at 11 a.m. (ET). The Mishawaka Sectional finale Saturday night pits Penn versus South Bend Adams.
Warsaw, whose last sectional title came in 2010, beat Northridge 43-41 at home on Jan. 4 on a game-winning shot by Jared Bloom.
Heavy favorite Concord, which was ranked No. 8 in the final coaches poll and won 42-31 at Warsaw on Jan. 18, finishes its season 19-2.
In historic North Side Gym, the site of so many epic battles over the years, Stookey made his own history Friday night. The junior guard took an inbounds pass from Jason Ferguson and went the length of the court to hit the runner as time expired in the marathon contest.
“I thought it had a chance,” said Stookey of his game winner. “I let it go and didn’t see the rim as Franko (Concord’s 6-6 Franko House) had a hand in my face. I hit the floor, looked up and saw the ball drop in and heard the crowd.
“I can’t put into words what this means to me right now. We knew all week we had a chance to win this game with the way we fight. The longer we kept it close tonight, the more the pressure was on them to make a play.”
Concord took a 39-38 lead with four seconds to play as junior Ramon Johnson hit a pair of free throws. The Minutemen then took a timeout and the rest is history as Stookey shocked the heavy favorites with his clutch jumper.
Stookey, who scored 13 points, hit a pair of free throws with 1:00 left in regulation to tie the game at 25-25. The junior guard also made an outstanding pass to Taylor Cone for a layup with six seconds to play in the first overtime that tied the game again at 30-30.
The Tigers, who opted to hold the ball on a couple of occasions in the second half to shorten the game, had a golden chance to win at the end of the second overtime. Warsaw senior star Jared Bloom, who hit the game winning free throw with one second left on Tuesday night in the second overtime to beat Elkhart Central 45-44 in the sectional opener, missed two free throws with five seconds left.
Concord, which led by as many as nine points in the opening half, missed shots to win at the end of regulation and at the end of the second overtime. The Minutemen, who were plagued by critical turnovers at key moments, also turned the ball over at the end of the first overtime period.
“Our guys are just unbelievably resilient,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “I just had a good feeling about tonight all week after we beat Central here Tuesday night. Jordan played well tonight. What a shot he hit. He spun it off the flange (the surface that attaches the rim to the backboard). I mean, you cannot do that on a runner three. It hit the flange and it spun and stopped and punched right back in. I’ve never seen anybody make a shot like that. That just doesn’t happen. And the pass he made to Cone for that layup that tied it was one heck of a pass.
“Concord is a heck of a team and we had no chance to win a high possession game. I was thankful and elated that they stayed in a zone. That made it easier for us to hold the ball and shorten the game. I said if it got into the 40′s, we would not win. Well, we scored 41, but that was in three overtimes.
“The longer the game went the more the pressure was on them. They hit those four threes in the first quarter and then we were just down five at halftime and I told our guys we were in good shape. Our defense played well overall. Our zone was pretty effective and we just packed it in around House.”
Concord led 14-9 after the opening period Friday night as the Minutemen drained four treys. The Minutemen were up 18-9 before Bloom hit a pair of buckets to make it 18-13 at halftime.
The Minutemen took a 20-13 lead to open the second half and led 20-15 when Warsaw opted to hold the ball. The Tigers took milked 6:32 off the clock in one possession by standing the holding it while Concord allowed them to before a Bloom jumper made it 20-17 going into the final period. Concord led 25-21 with 4:16 to play in regulation before Taylor Cone hit a pair of free throws with 1:37 left to make it 25-23 and then Stookey hit a pair of charity tosses to tie it at 25-25 with 1:00 left after coming up with a steal.
Ogle pointed to an exercise he had every member of the team do after a gut-wrenching 57-56 loss at Plymouth Feb. 7 as a key to sectional success. In that game, Warsaw let a 15-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter to lose their second straight Northern Lakes Conference game by a single point.
“After the Plymouth game, we had every player write on a 3 X 5 card that we were going to win the sectional and write three things each of them needed to do to get better,” related Ogle. “I believed and thought we could win this. We haven’t yet though.”
Concord, who entered the game averaging 60.6 points-per-game, was held to a season low. The Minutemen were just 11-of-17 from the line and had 14 huge turnovers, many coming at very inopportune times. Warsaw hit 18-of-28 from the line and had just nine turnovers.
“The turnovers killed us,” said Concord coach Steve Austin. “Those and the free throws. We just didn’t do what we were supposed to. It was the little stuff. It was one of those games. Both teams had chances and they hit the final shot. What can you say? Give them credit.
“That last shot the ball was coming out of the rim and then it went right back in.”
“We’ve had some hellacious battles with Warsaw. Two years ago in the sectional we beat them and tonight they returned the favor.”
Austin explained his decision to allow the Tigers to burn so much time off the clock.
“We could have come out, but we were ahead and we were in foul trouble and I didn’t want to chase them,” Austin said. “The thing is just that we didn’t settle down and do the things we’ve done all season.”
Bloom scored 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting to pace Warsaw. Stookey finished with 13 points, including an 8-of-10 effort from the line. Cone had nine points, Rashaan Jackson four and Jason Ferguson one. Jackson led the Tigers with four rebounds.
Stookey’s winning triple, his lone trey in four attempts on the night, had to be a sweet way to bounce back for him. The Tigers’ second-leading scorer, who averages 9.2 points-per-game, was held scoreless in Tuesday night’s win in which he shot 0-of-8 from the field. Stookey admitted Friday night that he is still bothered by a sore wrist on his shooting hand, which was injured on a hard fall late in the loss at Plymouth last month.
Franko House, a 6-6 power forward bound for Ball State, led the Minutemen with 16 points and six rebounds. Adam Glanders scored nine points and Johnson and Filip Serwatka each had seven.
Warsaw shot 11-of-25 overall from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. Concord was 12-of-33 from the field, including 4-of-12 from deep. Concord outrebounded the Tigers 21-20.
Concord starters DuWhan Alford and Serwatka both fouled out. The Minutemen lose four seniors, including starters House and Alford.