NAPPANEE – The NorthWood boys basketball team remained perfect on the season Friday night.
It took a perfect ending by the clutch Panthers to make sure the record-setting feat happened too.
NorthWood rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 38 seconds to stun rival Goshen 51-50 in a true Northern Lakes Conference thriller in front of a nearly-packed Panther Pit.
The Class 3-A No. 1 ranked Panthers used an old-fashioned three-point play by a guy named Trey and free throw heroics by sensational star Vinny Miranda to improve to 13-0 on the season.
Miranda, the gutsy senior point guard, hit a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to play to close the 5-0 run by the Panthers. Miranda, whose game winning charity tosses came after a Goshen turnover, netted 28 points on the night as NorthWood set a program mark for most wins in a row.
The aforementioned Trey, as in senior Trey Bilinski, converted a three-point play with 30.4 ticks left on the clock to cut the Goshen lead to 50-49. Bilinski, the man known for throwing passes for the state runner-up football team this past fall, took a gorgeous feed from Caleb Glick and converted inside for the pivotal hoop.
Goshen, which led 50-46 on a layup by Michael Pinarski with 38 seconds left, still had a chance to win the game. After Miranda’s two free throws, NorthWood fouled twice as they had fouls to give. Goshen’s Eliot Nafzier then missed a great look in the lane and Miranda grabbed the rebound. Miranda misfired on a free throw with 1.3 seconds to play, but Goshen’s desperation final heave was not even close.
“What a great game,” said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe. “It was in the balance until the final shot. I think that the grit of our individual players was important tonight. We needed every single play we made to win tonight.
“We were fortunate to get a turnover late. We had fouls to give after that and we took advantage of that. Caleb Glick made a great read on the pass to Trey. It was a great pass, a great catch and an even better finish by Trey.
“Vinny is a special basketball player. His teammates trust him and they believe in him. They also put him in great situations. Vinny’s in a new role (as our point guard) this season. But he has a tremendous ability to make plays when we need them the most.
“Give Goshen credit. I was impressed with the offense, their defense and their rebounding.”
Goshen, which drops to 7-6 overall and 1-3 in the NLC, got big efforts from senior Pinarksi and junior Will Line. Each scored 16 points and it was a layup by Pinarski after a wild scramble for a loose ball that gave Goshen its 50-46 lead with 38 seconds to play.
“There are no moral victories and I hurt for our guys,” said first-year Goshen coach Michael Wohlford. “This is game they will look back on and know we played well enough to win.
“I’m just really proud of the way we played tonight. If we bring this level of commitment and intensity every game the rest of the season I like our chances. If we play like this, we’re going to be a tough out.
“We talked about taking care of the ball late, but NorthWood sped us up. Credit them. It was a case of NorthWood making plays. Miranda is an All-State player. He made some tough shots tonight.”
NorthWood raced out to a 14-9 lead thanks to a 10-0 run in the opening period. Miranda canned eight points in the opening frame for the Panthers. Goshen blitzed the hosts with a 13-2 run to open the second quarter and led 24-22 at halftime as Pinarski scored 10 points.
Miranda was the man in the third quarter. The 6-0 guard, who averages 22 points-per-game, scored 12 of his team’s 16 points in the period. Miranda drained a trio of triples in the stanza, including one from NBA range to give his team a 35-34 lead. The team’s were tied at 38-38 entering the final frame.
Miranda scored his 28 points on a 9-18 shooting night, including 5-12 from distance. He also had seven rebounds.
Senior Luke Zurcher had eight points and junior Caleb Lung six and a team-high 10 rebounds. Bilinski had five points and junior Caleb Glick four.
The Panthers shot 20-44 overall from the field, including 5-18 from deep. NorthWood was 6-10 from the line and had 25 rebounds and seven turnovers. The hosts had a key 13-6 scoring edge in points off turnovers.
C.J. Detweiler, one of seven seniors, had eight points for Goshen. The RedHawks shot 21-29 overall from the field, including 8-15 from deep. Goshen did not attempt a free throw, had 18 rebounds and eight turnovers.
NorthWood improves to 4-0 in the conference. The Panthers are tied atop the league standings with Warsaw. Elkhart Memorial, which is 3-0 in league play, hosts Northridge Saturday night in an NLC game. The Tigers, who have won the past two NLC championships, won their 18th straight conference game Friday night by beating Concord 65-48. NorthWood, which has never won an NLC title, plays at Warsaw next Friday night.
NorthWood won the junior varsity game 47-40. Kaden Gongwer had 18 points and Luke Holland 11 for the winners. Dom Swinney had nine points and Austin Cain, Phillip Wertz and Brockton Yoder each had eight to lead Goshen.
NorthWood plays at Lakeland Saturday night. Goshen plays at Elkhart Christian Academy Tuesday night.