NAPPANEE – The Fairfield girls basketball team checked in at No. 6 in the latest rankings in Class 3-A.
The veteran Falcons looked the part of their lofty ranking Tuesday night.
Fairfield used a dominating run to open the second half to handle host NorthWood 47-34 in a non-conference clash in the Panther Pit.
The Falcons, who improve to 12-1 and move to 5-1 this season versus teams from the Northern Lakes Conference, hit the hosts with a 13-0 run to open the final half. That key four-minute stretch, which featured a handful of NorthWood turnovers, put Fairfield in control of the contest.
NorthWood, which sees its six-game winning streak stopped, falls to 9-3.
Felicity Bontrager, one of five senior starters for the Falcons, led the way with 13 points. She scored nine key points in a third period that saw Fairfield outscore the Panthers 19-13.
Seniors Erica Zook and Jordan Kintigh each finished with 10 points for coach Brodie Garber’s talented team.
The Falcons, who had lost their last six regular-season meetings versus NorthWood, have won five in a row since a 53-50 loss to Northridge.
Savannah Feenstra led NorthWood, which was ranked No. 22 in Class 3-A this week, with 12 points. The lone senior for the Panthers hit a trio of treys in the contest and also led her team with six rebounds.
NorthWood, which was coming off a key NLC win at Plymouth Saturday night, trailed just 21-19 at halftime. The hosts then did not score for the first 4:19 of the third quarter in digging a 15-point deficit. The Panthers had four straight turnovers to open the final half.
“We played the worst four minutes that we have this season to start the second half,” said NorthWood coach Adam Yoder. “It’s weird because we’ve been a good second-half team this year.
“The bottom line is that Fairfield is good. They played well and played to their strengths. You can’t play threee-fourths of a game against a good team and that’s what we did tonight. We had a slow start and then a tough start to the third quarter.
“The thing is that we did not coach well tonight and we did not play well tonight. That happens. We’re fine.”
Fairfield, which will host the sectional which includes NorthWood at season’s end, led 6-0 out of the gate. The Falcons were up 13-12 after the opening period and 21-19 at intermission.
NorthWood, which has just one senior in Feenstra, did rally. The hosts closed the third period with a 13-6 run to pull within 40-32 at the end of the quarter. Katie Lashley scored the first two buckets of the final frame for the Falcons and then Fairfield milked the clock the final three minutes to post the win.
“There’s a reason why Fairfield is a top 10 team,” added Yoder. “They have six seniors. They have about five kids who score between 6-10 points a game and that’s a coaches dream.
“Part of our youth showed up tonight, but that’s okay. We had one day to get ready for this game. We put all of our focus last week on our conference game at Plymouth Saturday night.
“We’re going to be just fine. I like our girls. We are 9-3 overall and 3-0 in the NLC and I don’t think that many people would have thought that at the start of the season.”
Sophomore Kate Rulli had eight points and junior Kenzie Bergman seven for NorthWood. Maddy Payne added four points and Karlie Fielstra three, while Bergman had three assists.
NorthWood had 15 turnovers in the game, including a critical five in the key third quarter.
Fairfield, which lost 44-35 to NorthWood last season, has wins this season over NLC teams Wawasee, Concord, Goshen, Elkhart Memorial and NorthWood.
NorthWood won the junior varsity game 34-25. Kendal Miller had 13 points and Alea Minnich seven to lead NorthWood. Kara Kitson led Fairfield with 12 points.
NorthWood will play at Bremen (6-7) Thursday night in a varsity only game at 6:30 p.m. Fairfield is off until hosting Garrett (5-7) on Jan. 2.