Warnement’s return can’t slow down Blue Jackets

NEW RIEGEL – Emotions were high for New Riegel and Calvert Friday night. The night was emotional for New Riegel as it honored eight seniors playing their last home game. Calvert meanwhile got an emotional lift from welcoming back Nick Warnement, playing his first game this season after injuring his hand.

But not even the return of the reigning Midland Athletic League player of the year could slow New Riegel this night.

Brandyn Reinhart showed why he’s a strong candidate to take this year’s top honor, scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds. Nick Wank’s 18 points led four Blue Jackets scoring in double figures in a 71-35 win over the Senecas.

Reinhart and Wank were among many eager to make a good showing in their final home game.

“I thought we came out with a pretty good energy,” New Riegel coach Todd Aichholz said. “Anytime you’re playing on a floor for the last time that you played countless games on in front of your family and friends, it’s going to be a special night for these seniors. I think they wanted to come out and play well in their last go around here at New Riegel.”

The Blue Jackets came out strong from the tip, scoring the game’s first nine points and taking a 22-4 lead after one quarter.

A few minutes into the opening quarter, Warnement checked into the game for the first time this season, to a great ovation from the crowd.

But for Calvert coach Ted Willman, mixing Warnement back into the offense, combined with playing against a strong New Riegel team made it tough for the Senecas to get going.

“You dig yourself a hole and it’s hard to claw your way out of it,” Willman said. “We had some guys in some foul trouble. Having Nick back and trying to get him somewhat involved in everything. It was a combination of a lot of things. It’s frustrating at times because we lacked consistency. It was all the way through tonight. It’s wasn’t like we made some runs. A couple times we had it down to 13, but we couldn’t get two, three stops and get two, three scores to get it to single digits. We don’t score, turn it over, miss shots, they go down, score. It’s just a combination of a lot of bad things.

“And they’re good. The thing is, they move the ball well. The play well together. … That group of seniors, they gel, they share the ball well together. It was just a bad combination of everything. Their skill and finishing on both ends of the floor, especially on the offensive end and us not being crisp and sharp and finishing at out end.”

On the offensive end of the floor, New Riegel hit on 8 of 13 first quarter shots. But Aichholz said the defensive end is where it all began. The Blue Jackets forced Calvert into nine first-quarter turnovers and allowed just one field goal.

“It’s who we are; it’s what we do,” Aichholz said. “That’s where it all starts for us, on the defensive end. I thought tonight we did a good job converting on our defensive end and converting offense out of our defensive end.”

In addition to Wank and Reinhart’s big nights, New Riegel got 12 points off the bench from Jake Dryfuse and 10 from Korey Williams.

“That’s when we’re at our best, when everyone’s contributing and chipping in,” Aichholz said. “This is a great team win tonight. I thought everybody did something positive on the floor tonight. We played well as a team tonight.”

Warnement led Calvert (4-16, 3-7) with 11 points. With the regular season winding down and tournaments on the horizon, Willman said the team is looking to adjust with Warnement returning to the lineup.

“He’ll help us. He’s only practiced two practices,” Willman said. “His career’s winding down. I’m just glad that he’s back, got his cast off and he’s able to play some. It gives them a boost. It’s just a matter of him being at practice enough with these guys to get back in the swing of playing, running plays.”

New Riegel meanwhile has its sights set on the MAL title. The Blue Jackets (17-3, 9-1) travel to Old Fort next Friday to take on the league front running Stockaders. A win will give New Riegel a share of the league title.

“That’s where we want to be,” Aichholz said. “This is why we worked so hard in the offseason. This is why we put in all the hours, to put ourselves in the position we’re going to be in next Friday night.”