Dec. 22—KENDALLVILLE — Last season, the Goshen boys basketball team went 7-16.
After Tuesday night's 50-39 win over East Noble, this year's RedHawks team has matched that win total.
A balanced attack on offense, coupled with a 16-7 advantage in the fourth quarter, allowed Goshen to pull away with the victory in Kendallville. The RedHawks have now won six-straight games and are 7-1 overall heading into the Christmas break.
"The guys have played really well," Goshen head coach Michael Wohlford said. "We're a hard team to play against. It's a style that's different. We just want to play solid basketball. I mean, you look at the teams in (Class) 4A, and they have to play solid basketball; they can't 'junk it up.' You can't 'junk it up' in the tournament to beat Penn, Warsaw and Northridge. ... We really like where we're at. We're not done, but we really like our start to the year. The kids are excited, and they have a right to be."
It was a sluggish start to the game for the visitors, as they were down 5-3 early. Wohlford called a timeout with 3:53 to go in the first quarter, and whatever he said during that break seemed to work. Goshen finished off the frame with a 9-2 run to take a 12-7 lead after eight minutes of play.
Sparking that run was sophomore Gage Worthman, who missed three games this season due to health and safety protocols. Worthman had five-straight points to turn a 7-5 RedHawks deficit into a 10-7 lead for his team.
"Gage is a really good player," Wohlford said. "There have been times at practice where he's been our best player, so to not have him — Noah Alford stepped up really well."
East Noble came out the aggressor in the second quarter, as the Knights grabbed a 16-14 lead on a '3' from senior Avery Kline. Goshen countered immediately with a three-point shot of their own, as junior Deecon Hill buried a long-distanced shot to put the RedHawks up 17-16 with 2:45 to go in the first half. It would be a lead Goshen wouldn't surrender the rest of the game.
Goshen led 23-22 at halftime. They would increase the lead to seven points, 32-25, with 4:48 to go in the third quarter on a basket from sophomore Ryan Eldridge. Although he only finished with four points, Wohlford credited Eldridge for the way he slowed down East Noble's Chris Hood. The Knights' senior stands at 6'9" and is committed to Ball State as an offensive lineman for football.
Hood finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but only five of those points came in the fourth quarter when Eldridge was the primary defender on him.
"Ryan Eldridge was huge tonight," Wohlford said. "He hasn't played a lot in the last three, four games, and he didn't get down. He was happy and positive for Lleyton Weddell and Zach Subera, and tonight was (Eldridge's) night to go up against a 6'9" kid who is very good."
The RedHawks led 34-32 going into the fourth quarter. That lead shrunk to one, 38-37, on a bucket from Hood with 5:22 remaining. That's when junior Quinn Bechtel would have his biggest impact on the game, making old-fashioned three-point plays on back-to-back possessions. Bechtel made tough driving layups, then finished off the plays with free throws to balloon the Goshen lead to seven with 4:47 to go.
"We went to the matchups," said Wohlford of Bechtel's back-to-back big plays. "They had a 5'8" kid on him, and he's stronger. Basketball is a game of matchups, and you try and pinpoint those matchups. We liked Quinn in that spot, and he was able to finish with really nice shots."
A combination of free throws from Worthman, Hill and Bechtel, then a layup from Worthman, closed out the scoring at the end of the game for Goshen.
Worthman and Hill both finished with 12 points each. Bechtel and senior Drew Hogan each had 11 points, with Eldridge's four rounding out the scoring for the RedHawks.
The RedHawks' 7-1 start to the season is its best in at least 27 seasons. The program's all-time best start was 10-0 to begin the 1987-88 season. The closest starts to 7-1 that Goshen has had since the 1993-94 season has been 6-2 on seven different occasions (1993-94, '95-96, '96-97, '97-98, 2007-08, 2012-13 and 2019-20).
"I told the guys that all I want for Christmas is for us all to feel 7-1 and what that's like," Wohlford said. "... Past success doesn't guarantee future success, and so we're well aware of that. The guys are just going to keep working. They come to practice ready every day. Monday was excellent, and we had just beaten Northridge on Saturday.
"I shouldn't be surprised, but it's not like we do this every year. So, it's nice to see."
Goshen now has two weeks off before they return to action with a home game on Jan. 4 against Marquette Catholic.
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.