Big NorthWood Start Finishes Wawasee

Wawasee guard KiLee Knafel tries to work around NorthWood defenders Taylor Fielstra and Maddie Schwartz. (Photos by Mike Deak)

Wawasee guard KiLee Knafel tries to work around NorthWood defenders Taylor Fielstra and Maddie Schwartz. (Photos by Mike Deak)

SYRACUSE — There wasn’t much guess work needed after the first six minutes and change of the first quarter Saturday night at the Hardwood Teepee.

An outstanding performance by NorthWood, which scored the game’s first 20 points, was all she wrote in an eventual 74-41 result over Wawasee as both teams return back to Northern Lakes Conference play following holiday tournaments.

Turnover after turnover doomed the Lady Warriors, now mired in a seven-game losing streak after winning its first six ballgames. As NorthWood went on its run in the first quarter, seven Wawasee turnovers turned into points on the other end, whether easy bunnies under the basket for Morgan Olson or three-pointers by Jordyn Frantz.

Olson scored 10 of her team-leading 22 points in the opening quarter, mostly by outmuscling Wawasee to her spot and getting wide open looks. Olson also added 11 rebounds, four of those on the offensive end.

Frantz, on the other hand, made three bombs from deep and finished with 13 points and seven assists. About the only thing that went wrong for the Lady Panthers was Frantz picking up her third foul midway through the second quarter and sitting the remainder of the half.

NorthWood forward Morgan Olson rips down one of her 11 rebounds.

NorthWood forward Morgan Olson rips down one of her 11 rebounds.

“Morgan just sticks around and ends up with the ball, and when that happens, you just expect her to score,” NorthWood head coach Steve Neff said. “The girls look for her. Being in the right spot and the right time helps her out. She does a really nice job.”

Savannah Bley tossed in 17 points to aid the visitor’s cause.

NorthWood, which came into the night riding high after winning the Northridge Holiday Tournament that saw the Lady Panthers beat Homestead, Hobart, Concord and Northridge in two days. Those four teams were a combined 41-16 entering Saturday.

The win against Wawasee Saturday night, however, was the first NLC win after losing to both Memorial and Plymouth in December matchups. NorthWood are 12-3 overall and currently ranked No. 9 in the 3A state poll.

“We didn’t have to run much at them offensively with the way the game started, but we passed the ball really well,” Neff said. “This is our sixth game on ‘vacation’ so it will be nice getting back into a routine on Monday. I was really happy with how we played.”

KiLee Knafel again represented the bulk of Wawasee’s offense, scoring all seven of the team’s points in the first quarter, ending the 20-0 run with an and-one at the 1:37 mark. Knafel, who scored 24 points, didn’t hesitate to take the reigns after the foul call, letting out a frustrated, “Let’s go, this is embarrassing. We need to pick it up.” The mirrored frustration on the sidelines told the story.

“We were not tough out there,” began Wawasee head coach Kem Zolman. “Talk is cheap. We say we are tough but we aren’t good enough to compete against the teams we have seen lately. That comes with youth. Now you have this stretch that has probably the best team out of all of them come in tonight, you won’t see as much progression as you would like.

“Is there progression? Yes. But that was a top of the line team. They are likely state contenders.”

Guard Cassie Martinez advances the ball for Wawasee.

Guard Cassie Martinez advances the ball for Wawasee.

The unevenness of Wawasee’s play stood out most with the head coach, as Knafel and Kylee Rostochak – who netted 14 points – combined for 34 of Wawasee’s 42 shot attempts and had 38 of the 41 points. Only a three by Cassie Martinez in the third quarter accounted for the other scoring. The 16 first-half turnovers against a quality opponent made a tremendous dent.

“We didn’t match up well with any of their players,” Zolman said. “Morgan is the best post player we will see all year. Strong as a bull. She was pulling away rebounds from three of our kids. And they were really fast.

“We just don’t have the personnel to match up with that kind of size. We have to be able to make adjustments and recognize what we can do, but we have to be much more disciplined than we were tonight.”

The NorthWood JV didn’t waste any time making its point be known, taking a 22-2 lead in the first quarter of a 45-18 final over Wawasee. Ashley Yoder and Andrea Tuttle each had 11 points for the Lady Panthers while Allissa Flores had five points and four boards for Wawasee.

Wawasee, which last won at home Nov. 27 against West Noble, will look to regroup as Columbia City comes to Syracuse Tuesday night. After the tough holiday slide for Wawasee, which had the Lady Warriors on the lopsided end of losses to Brebeuf and Norwell at the Norwell Shootout coupled with the result with NorthWood, Zolman will be happy to have a game on short rest. Maybe just what the doctor ordered with a young group of kids looking for a breakout.

“With this group, I really feel like we can get back to practice on Monday and be ready to go Tuesday night,” Zolman said. “This group can put a game like this behind them and move on. We just need to respond.”

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