PLYMOUTH – NorthWood and Plymouth gave the fans at The Rock Friday night an early Christmas present. With the feel of a late February matchup, the opening night of the Northern Lakes Conference boys basketball slate got bonus basketball as NorthWood outlasted Plymouth 66-62 in overtime.
NorthWood led for just about all of the second half until Nick Felke drilled a three, giving the Pilgrims a 52-51 lead with 1:57 to go in the fourth quarter. Luke Zurcher would tie the game at 53 with a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left in regulation, which is how the game would end in regulation.
The Class 3-A No. 2 ranked Panthers held a six-point advantage, 63-57, in overtime before Plymouth responded. Kadin McCrammer hit a three, and Felke came up with another big play, stealing NorthWood next possession and diving to the bucket, getting the hoop and the harm. His free throw, however, rimmed out, and NorthWood retained a 63-62 advantage.
Caleb Lung and Zurcher went 3-4 in free throws to run it out, giving the Panthers a tournament-like win just a couple weeks into its season.
“Northern Lakes Conference basketball is always a challenge and tonight is no different,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “We were very fortunate to come away with a win tonight, and you have to give a lot of credit to Plymouth for the game they played. It’s a shame someone had to come out of this with a loss, especially in the conference, I thought there were multiple guys for us who made plays towards the end of the basketball game.”
The game saw several runs, only for the other club to answer to keep the game from getting out of hand one direction or the other. NorthWood went on an 11-0 run in the first quarter to take a 15-8 lead, only for the Pilgrims to climb within two to end the first, 17-15. A Vinny Miranda three gave NorthWood a 40-30 edge, which had the Panthers on a 16-7 binge in the third, only for Plymouth to score the game’s next seven points, capped by a Clay Hilliard three.
Miranda and Zurcher each finished with 21 points to pace the Panthers, Miranda adding five assists and four rebounds and Zurcher seven rebounds. The two were a combined 5-12 from three, but also committed nine turnovers. Caleb Lung had a sneaky 12 points and six rebounds.
Felke, who commanded NorthWood’s attention everywhere he went on the court, was held to 15 points on 6-15 shooting. The senior signal caller also had five assists, four steals and three rebounds. Cam Dennie added 13 points and Garrett Tharp had 14 points in the loss.
“I thought Nick Felke was excellent tonight,” Wolfe said. “Probably the thing we picked up on, was that he made the right play continually. He found shooters on the perimeter when our guys overhelped, and he made big plays down the stretch. And that’s what players like him are asked to do. We’re just fortunate he didn’t make a couple more.”
NorthWood took command of the JV game, outscoring Plymouth 31-13 in the second half of a 49-35 final. Luke Holland led NorthWood with 16 points and seven boards and DeAndre Smart added eight points and five boards. Payton Skirvin had 12 points for the Pilgrims.
NorthWood (5-0, 1-0 NLC) will return to the site of last year’s regional – Marion – on Thursday to play Class 1-A Liberty Christian, which won the state title last season. Plymouth (5-2, 0-1 NLC) will visit South Bend Riley Tuesday night.