In their five previous trips to the 2A boys basketball regional held at North Judson, the Westview Warriors have never failed to reach the championship game. Semifinal wins over Boone Grove (2006), Hammond Noll (2008), Garrett (2009), North Judson (2011) and Adams Central (2012) have earned coach Rob Yoder’s squads to play for the regional title in those years.
That trend will be put to a severe test this Saturday when 20-4 Westview meets 21-3 Hammond Noll in the second semifinal game at North Judson. It will be the third time these 2A powerhouses have met in the regional with the result being a split.
“You can throw out most of that stuff at this point,” said Yoder of his program’s recent success in regional semifinals. “I like to think that our way of focusing on the next game on the schedule has something to do with the success we’ve had at the regional.”
If the Emma Warriors are to extend their regional semifinal streak to six, they will have to find a way to slow down Noll’s offensive troika of seniors Larry Crisler, Marquis Tarver and Tyreon Gates, who between them score 43 of the 60 points their team has averaged over the season.
“They are primarily a perimeter team with a lot guys willing to take shots and then crash the offensive boards,” said Yoder of Hammond Noll. “The key for us defensively will be to limit them to one shot per possession as often as possible.”
Crisler, who has already signed a scholarship to play baseball for Indiana University, is a name many Westview fans will remember. As a freshman, the 6-3 guard/forward came off the bench to score six points in Hammond Noll’s 51-41 victory over the Warriors in the finals of the 2011 regional.
“He is very athletic, can drive to the basket and pull up and hit the jumper,” Yoder said of Crisler, who averages 16.2 points a tilt. “Tarver is a great change-of-direction dribbler who opens up a lot of things for them with his penetration.”
When his team has the ball, Yoder expects Noll to play a 2-3 zone defense with some 1-3-1 and man-to-man looks thrown in. “They don’t trap or press a lot, but the potential is always there.
“We are going to have to play extremely well to beat them,” continued Yoder. “Our schedule has prepared us to play teams like Hammond Noll and I don’t think our kids will be overwhelmed athletically.”
Senior guard Jordyn Bontrager leads the Westview scoring attack with an 18.2 clip. Right behind him with a 15.3 mark is junior forward Chandler Aspy.
Two more upperclassmen, 5-11 guard Jamar Weaver and 6-3 forward Judah Zickafoose give Westview two more scoring options. Weaver’s 20 points led the Warriors in their sectional-clinching, 60-49 victory over Bremen. Zickafoose collected 34 points and 18 rebounds in Westview’s three sectional triumphs.
“Other than some illness that’s run through the team in the past week, we’re as healthy as we’ve been all season,” said Yoder, who dressed just five varsity players in Westview’s season-opener at Bethany Christian back in November. “We are going there (to North Judson) to win. Our kids have worked this week as hard as they have all season and are ready to play.”
The winner of the Westview-Hammond Noll battle will meet the survivor of the 11 a.m. (LaGrange time) opener between 18-6 Woodlan or 14-8 Winamac in the championship game Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.
Woodlan claimed its first sectional crown in the multi-class era this past Monday when it beat Fort Wayne Canterbury, 71-67 in the finals of the South Adams tourney. The last time Woodlan advanced to the regional was in 1997.
Seniors Greg White (5-9 guard), Kadin Gerig (6-3 forward) and Jaylin Bennett (6-5 center) are Woodlan’s top scorers. White netted 18 points and Gerig 17 in the win over Canterbury.
Winamac is making its first regional appearance in 12 years. The Warriors whipped North Judson, 69-50 in the championship game of the Rensselaer Central sectional to punch their ticket.
Parker Fox, a 5-11 junior guard, leads Winamac in scoring with a 12.0 average. Fox tallied a team-high 18 points in the title-clinching victory over North Judson.
The winner of the North Judson regional advances to the 2A northern semi-state scheduled for Saturday, March 22 at either Huntington North or Lafayette Jeff. Teams will be advised of their semi-state site on Sunday afternoon.