sports blog by andy shenk

Memorial Whacks Wawasee, Ends Slide

In At The Game, Elkhart Basketball on January 15, 2013 at 4:43 PM

My brother Jonny, wife Nikki, and I hurried into North Side Gym on Friday evening at 7:45 PM with 10 minutes to spare until the tip-off between Northern Lakes Conference foes Elkhart Memorial and Wawasee.

We took our usual seats a few rows behind the home bench, right next to the same two fans we’ve been sitting by every game. Apparently fans of both Central and Memorial, suspiciously similar to me and Nikki, the older gentleman of the two had on a yellow mustard suit this evening.

Our regular crowd of 300-500 sat scattered throughout the arena with a group of middle-schoolers perched on the top row, high above the court and American flags suspended from the ceiling. Back at floor level, Memorial’s student section stood in anticipation of the game, directly across from us. No confetti and signs for the team like last week, when senior Markese McGuire scored his 1000th point for the Chargers. Still, they hoped to help snap the team’s five-game losing streak.

A few minutes before the national anthem and tip-off, McGuire came onto the court to receive a plaque commemorating his achievement last Saturday. The fans stood and cheered. Against a smaller Wawasee lineup, McGuire had a good opportunity to add to his career point total tonight.

A freshman and a sophomore started for the Chargers, Michael O’Toole and Dimitri Giger, in addition to seniors James Hershberger, Spenser Gilbert, and Markese McGuire. The Warriors, meanwhile, featured four sophomores and a junior, led by 5-10 sophomore guard Alex Clark.

McGuire got the game off to a bang, pounding fists with the refs after being introduced, then winning the opening tip. He scored a quick four points and Memorial led 6-0, though Mark Barnhizer, the Memorial coach, kept yelling at his team from the baseline, drifting several feet onto the court at different times.

Four minutes later, it was Wawasee coach Phil Mishler’s turn to be upset. Mishler pleaded with refs over a call, “I don’t understand!” Soon Memorial got the short end of the stick as well and a fan behind me grumbled, “Jeez, just jump on top. Good Lord.”

Hershberger drained a ‘3’ and Memorial had a 13-3 lead with 2:53 to play in the opening frame. Just before the quarter ended, however, Hershberger, the point guard, threw the ball away. Barnhizer snapped at sophomore guard Cameron Maxwell, “Ten, get in there!” The period ended before Maxwell could replace Hershberger, but 30 seconds into the second quarter, the sophomore started off well by draining a ‘3’ at the top of the key. Memorial 18, Wawasee 8.

The Chargers continued to push the lead as their coach galvanized them from the bench, imploring them to “Go, go!” at the beginning of each possession. With two minutes to play in the half, they had put Wawasee in an 18-point hole, 31-13. Barnhizer felt no better, though, and challenged Hershberger to distribute the ball better. Junior guard Austin Miller came in for the senior with a little over a minute left after another turnover, but Wawasee closed hard, scoring seven unanswered, including a desperation heave at the buzzer from Alex Clark that clanged in off the backboard. 31-20 in favor of Memorial. The Chargers would likely get more than an earful during the 15-minute break.

At halftime, our friend in yellow helped run the Pepsi shoot-out, handing out the 2-liter pops to the winners. There were plenty of them, especially for the Central student section.

In the second half, the Chargers began with a stumble. First, Dimitri Giger fouled on a 3-point shot. Then, on the missed third free throw, he went over the back and got whistled for a second time. Upset by the call, he glanced toward the bench, but only heard an assistant coach bark, “You went over his back, Dimitri! Play D!”

Markese McGuire missed a shot shortly after and on Memorial’s next possession, his frustration evident, drove hard to the rim for two points and a foul. He made the free throw for his 10th point of the game, but would only score four more the rest of the way. In fact, after a charge call, his third foul of the game, Barnhizer pulled him out to sit the last five minutes of the third quarter. McGuire just couldn’t get his shots to fall, much like in the game against Penn. Memorial still led, 39-27 until Wawasee’s Alex Clark drew his squad within nine with a ‘3’. Luckily for Memorial, Cameron Maxwell responded quickly, dropping two 3-pointers and a long ‘2’ in two minutes to push the lead back to 14, 49-35.

Throughout the fourth quarter, Wawasee nipped at the home team’s heels, but never got closer than nine points. Clark did what he could, driving to the hole and hitting from beyond the arc, on his way to 27 points, but Memorial scored often enough to neutralize him.

You see, despite Clark’s game-high 27 points, the night belonged to Memorial’s sophomore forward Dimitri Giger. Giger, gushed the recap in the Elkhart Truth the following morning, led his team with 17 points and nine rebounds and earned effusive praise from his coach, Mark Barnhizer, “Dimitri played great. He was the one kid that played really well tonight. He did a lot of good things at both ends of the floor.”

All I remember is an assistant sighing with four minutes left, not sure how to express his feelings on the star of the game, “He plays stupid, but at least he’s playing.” Then, with the clock running down and Wawasee pressing, Giger sailed a ball the length of the court, over the fingertips of his streaking teammate. “Throw it out of bounds!!??” exclaimed Mark Barnhizer. He did, then a few seconds later grabbed a defensive rebound, got fouled on the play, and sank both free throws to put his team up 68-55, 1:02 to play.

The coaches may be rough on young Giger this season, but no one can deny his potential, certainly not to the press, anyway.

Memorial 70, Wawasee 57. The Chargers improve to 5-7 (1-2 in NLC play), the Warriors fall to 3-7 (0-3 in NLC play).

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