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BOYS BB: Winamac ekes out sectional win against North Miami

Feb. 28—WALTON — North Miami, behind a feisty defensive effort and sharp shooting from Jacob Riley, gave Winamac a scare in sectional play Tuesday night.

Winamac made enough plays on offense and behind a balanced attack held on for a 55-50 victory at the Class 2A Lewis Cass Sectional.

The Winamac Warriors (12-12) had four players in double figures, led by Justin Potthoff's 15 points and seven rebounds. Jayse Bentle scored 13, Brendan Hines had 11 and John Malchow had 10. Will Malchow chipped in six.

The North Miami Warriors (3-20) were led by Riley's 29 points. The 5-foot-11 junior guard made a variety of difficult shots to lead the upset bid. The nephew of an all-time basketball great, Ruth Riley Hunter, also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.

"The Riley kid, he's a really good player. He had it going tonight," Winamac coach Mike Springer said. "And they set some good screens for him. They were looking for him. I think there were times tonight when we had hands in his face but he just still made them. He's had a good career, he's a very good player."

North Miami also outscrapped Winamac for much of the night. North Miami outrebounded Winamac 37-22. But Winamac overcame that in part by forcing 15 turnovers and committing just five.

North Miami jumped out to a 21-11 lead just over a minute into the second quarter before Winamac came back to tie the game at 25-all at halftime.

Winamac utilized a 10-0 run and held North Miami scoreless for over five minutes of the third quarter to take a 35-27 lead. Winamac led 39-33 after three.

Riley heated back up in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points to lead NM's comeback effort. But North Miami could never get it any closer than four. Hines made four straight free throws in the final minute to keep it at a two- or three-possession game to hold off NM.

Winamac was an efficient 5 of 10 from 3-point range and shot 10 of 15 from the foul line to NM's 3 of 9.

"We felt like we could score," Springer said. "When you feel that way, if you make some passes and make some cuts, you can get to the basket. I really felt like we were able to do that, get to the scoring area and some good things happened at that point. We also hit some free throws when we needed to.

"The kids played hard. It was a good opening game for us. We're going to have to play better on Friday night against a Cass team that's hungry and playing in their own gym. They've battled all season. We're going to have to play well. The goal is to win them one at a time and go from there."

Drew Wright was also in double figures for North Miami with 11 points. Lake Musall added six and Ray Pickett chipped in four.

"I was proud of how hard our guys played," North Miami coach Ryan DeMien said. "We wrote on the board 'do your job' and '32 minutes' and obviously it was as close as we've had to 32 minutes that we could get. We put ourselves there in position in the fourth quarter. I felt like we played good team basketball. We just had a stretch there the first half where we missed some free throws and in the second half we had a stretch there where they went on I think was an 8-0 run. But I'm proud of how hard our guys played on both ends of the court today as a team. They did what we asked them to do what we've been working on the past couple weeks in practice."

North Miami finishes with just three wins on the season after winning just one game last year. But the Warriors graduate just one senior, Bryce Gosnell. Considering how they looked Tuesday night, plus an apparent move back to Class A and a move to the Hoosier North Athletic Conference, the outlook looks bright for North Miami heading into the offseason.

It also helps putting together the best effort of the season at the sectional.

"We've seen spurts of it but it was the longest we've stuck together as far as the team part, moving the ball, making the defense work," DeMien said. "I think that's the most we've made a defense work as far as making several passes before the shot. Sometimes throughout the season we'll get in that position we'll have no pass, one pass, two pass, but tonight I felt like we did a good job of just making it work, sticking together as a team.

"Jake played well, everybody played well, everybody that stepped on the floor. I was proud of how our bench brought energy. It was everybody, it just wasn't the ones on the court. It was everybody contributed something. ... Winamac did a great job. They're a good team. We put ourselves there, we just came up a little bit short."

Winamac plays sectional host Lewis Cass (8-13) in a semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. It'll be the teams' first meeting since a 2021 sectional game that Cass won 38-22.

Wabash (18-5) plays Pioneer (9-13) in the earlier semifinal Friday. Cass is the defending champion.

"We are confident we can win Friday night but we also know that we're going to have to come out and play," Springer said. "We're going to have to play better defensively I felt like than what we did tonight. Riley's a good kid, but we can't give up 29 points to a kid. Shut down the rest of the team and give a guy 29, that's hard to win some nights on that. I think our kids are ready to play Friday night and we'll put the uniforms on and we'll see what happens."