NAPPANEE – For a few minutes, it looked like a repeat of the Friday night boys basketball game between Wawasee and NorthWood might have reincarnated in the girls hoops version. But NorthWood’s size, speed and experience all took over seemingly all at once in a 72-31 final over Wawasee at the Panther Pit.
In the boys game, Wawasee hung around longer than most expected and made NorthWood work for its win. Saturday night, teams headed in opposite directions this season were both moving along the same plane for about 10 game minutes. With NorthWood up just 17-10 late in the first quarter, Wawasee was doing well to match NorthWood’s pace and execution.
Those tactics brought Wawasee into the second quarter down just 10, but NorthWood arose and responded in a big way. Using a 19-5 run to end the half littered with Wawasee turnovers and transition bucket after transition bucket by NorthWood, what once was a competitive contest ballooned into a 36-15 Lady Panther commander at the half.
“I was more than pleased with how we started,” started Wawasee head coach Kem Zolman. “Offensively, we hung in there for a while, then we started to rush shots. When we missed, we didn’t get back defensively and that’s how NorthWood made that run. We’re just young enough that we aren’t recognizing opportunities on offense and not checking through our defense. Morgan (Olson) ran right through our defense and we never really noticed.”
NorthWood (12-3, 3-0 NLC) showed why it hasn’t lost since the first week of December, nine wins in a row for those counting. Wanting to run at its own pace, NorthWood sprinted with Taylor Fielstra and Jordyn Frantz leading the push. Frantz and Fielstra combined for 33 points and five assists while Frantz added three steals, Fielstra draining three from deep.
When Wawasee covered the guards, Olson took the opportunity to dive virtually unopposed inside. Without making a lot of noise, Olson scored the game’s first two points in the first 20 seconds and just kept on going. After the first quarter, Olson had matched Wawasee at 12 points and wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds despite sitting most of the second half.
“Wawasee isn’t that bad of a team, they are just young,” said NorthWood head coach Steve Neff. “They made a little run at us early, but our leaders stepped up and did their jobs. We wanted to keep our home floor advantage, come back from the break playing well in a conference game. Wawasee will be better come sectional time. But, hopefully we’ll be playing better basketball then, too.”
As hot as Wawasee started by its standards this year with the 12 points in the first quarter, the team relegated itself to the cold shooting and poor care of the basketball that has plagued the team this season. Wawasee (2-9, 1-2 NLC) made just one shot in the second quarter while NorthWood went on its run, finishing the night 10-37 from the floor, a paltry 27 percent. Kylee Rostochak was just 6-19 from the floor but finished with a team-high 16 points and added five rebounds and two steals.
The 27 team turnovers committed certainly didn’t help.
All factored in, Zolman wasn’t particularly worried. In fact, saw a silver lining.
“I was pleased with that first 10 minutes of the game, but our kids were also still flying around at the end of the game,” Zolman stated. “There wasn’t really a ‘Jimminy Christmas we’re down by 40’ and they put their heads down and quit. That didn’t happen. I know tonight they didn’t see the results, but there will be a time when that hustle will pay off.”
There was very little to analyze in the 37-6 NorthWood JV win over Wawasee. The Lady Panthers held Wawasee to just one field goal made in the game and forced Wawasee into 32 turnovers. Andrea Tuttle led NorthWood with eight points, and Kaylee Haynes and McKayla Fielstra each had seven points.
NorthWood will host Tippecanoe Valley Tuesday while Wawasee will also play Tuesday at Columbia City.