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With less than a minute left in Woodlan's 54-36 defeat of Adams Central in the first round of the 90th annual boys Allen County Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday, an official asked the Warriors' bench to sit down prior to a free-throw attempt.
It was one of the few times the reserves sat down all night.
Woodlan avenged a triple-overtime defeat to Adams Central earlier this season and rebounded well from a 13-point loss to Bluffton last Saturday. While the on-court performance was impressive, Warriors coach David Randall could not praise his bench enough.
“I talked to them about Indiana's Bench Mob and what IU does in calling out plays and screens,” Randall said. “It is nice to have that sixth man out on the floor with you, and it is more fun.”
Woodlan's bench was invaluable Tuesday, especially in the first half when the Adams Central basket was on their end of the floor. The Warriors utilized a 2-3 zone for most of the half, and the reserves constantly called out where Flying Jets players were and where the ball was possibly headed.
“We can hear that a lot,” said Jaylin Bennett about his teammates on the sideline. “It helps because sometimes there are people behind us we can't see. It gives us more awareness (on the floor).”
All coaches want their reserves to stay focused on the game and help their teammates while relegated to the bench, but in the end, it is up to the players themselves to make the effort to contribute.
“If the kids don't buy into it, it doesn't happen,” Randall said. “I have to focus on the game. We have good senior leadership, and they took it upon themselves to make it happen.”
Rarely did the Woodlan bench take a seat, even in the second half when the game was well in hand. The Warriors, who lost to the Flying Jets in triple overtime Dec. 14, had balanced scoring throughout the night with three finishing in double figures, led by Bennett's 17 points.
Shawn McGettigan added 15 points and Kadin Gerig 12 in the victory.
Adams Central was led by Dalton Combs' 15 points.
Woodlan (7-5) held a five-point lead at halftime but broke the game open with a 12-1 run over the first four-plus minutes of the third quarter.
The Flying Jets (6-4) never got within single digits again.
Even as the final seconds ticked away, Woodlan's bench was still shouting encouragement to the players on the court.
“I am not sure if we played well because the bench was live or the bench was live because we played well, I don't know,” Randall said. “If I knew, I'd write a book and I'd be golfing in Florida right now instead of freezing my butt off up here.”
Chances are the Warriors will show more bench energy tonight at Memorial Coliseum in the ACAC Tournament semifinals against Leo, scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip.
“Now that our team sees the tangible results of (being involved on the bench), I am guessing we will see it (tonight).”
Adams Central 13 7 7 9-36 Woodlan 14 11 18 11-54 Adams Central: Byerly 3, Combs 15, Luginbill 10, Baumer 2, Harris 6. Woodlan: White 4, McGettigan 15, Gerig 12, Williams 2, Stieglitz 4, Bennett 17.