NAPPANEE – As expected, two of the more storied boys basketball teams in the area played a whale of a game Friday night.
Braxton Linville scored 22 points and NorthWood weathered a late comeback from Triton to pull out a 54-50 win in the Panther Pit.
Linville wasn’t an overwhelmingly dominant force in the game, but seemed to be in the right places at the right times for the Panthers. A steal and layup by Linville put NorthWood up 47-41 after Triton had pulled within one possession for the first time since the first quarter just moments before the play. The junior guard would hit three free throws down the stretch to help keep Wood up at least two possessions going forward.
Linville was 8-of-13 from the floor and hit 5-of-9 free throw attempts to go with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. The lone starter from last year’s regional team, Linville looked every bit the veteran, and a complete thorn in Triton’s side.
Vincent Miranda and Dakiyron Fox were also problems for the Trojans in their own right, scoring 15 points each. Fox added 11 rebounds, three of his offensive rebound output came on one play right before the Linville steal to which Triton could only foul Fox as he kept rebounding his own misses. Miranda added six rebounds.
“They were tough, and the Fox kid inside we had zero answer for. We tried everything,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “We just have to be more physical and compete in those situations. We have to find a way to get it done.”
What was a 34-25 NorthWood lead in the third quarter quickly turned into a two-point game in the fourth. Joey Corder opened the fourth with three straight hoops for Triton, and a blocked Fox shot turned into a bucket by Jordan Anderson on the other end. All of a sudden, it was 43-41 and NorthWood’s home-opening enthusiasm had quickly grown vastly silent two-point lead.
But foul trouble quickly caught up to the Trojans, who lost Mason Yeo’s 10 points and four rebounds on the next whistle, and Corder would foul out with his team down five late in the game. Corder’s exit had 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal find pine, and Anderson was saddled with four for much of the fourth quarter, having to cycle in and out on nearly every dead ball. Anderson was held to just four points and four assists.
Austin Sellers gave Triton a lift with 11 points, a bright spot for Groves, as well as turning over the ball just seven times.
“There were some positives tonight, like only having seven turnovers,” Groves said. “That’s a good thing. We’re just struggling to find some offense at times.
“I was pleased with the effort. The execution, not so much, but the effort was there. I thought the kids wanted to please me, but really that’s what I asked. Work hard. They have to play hard. Unfortunately, they just came up a little short.”
In the junior varsity contest, NorthWood had nine players score at least three points in a 43-32 win over Triton. Caleb Lung led the Panthers with 11 points while Triton had Zac Pitney score eight points and Nate Flenar finish with seven points.
Triton (1-2) will look to regroup at home in its 2014-15 debut at the Trojan Trench in hosting Caston. The Trojans played three straight road games to open the season, winning at Oregon-Davis to begin followed by back-to-back losses to Northern Lakes Conference stalwarts Plymouth and NorthWood. The Panthers (2-1) will host Westview Thursday evening.