SYRACUSE – In a word, ‘efficient’.
NorthWood was able to do just about everything it wanted and needed Friday night in a 55-34 win at Wawasee in Northern Lakes Conference boys basketball.
A 10-14 shooting night for Caleb Lung gave the senior forward 21 points, and Lung did it at the basket, spotting up from 10 feet and off the drive. Lung’s bank shot as well as a floater from DeAndre Smart helped the Panthers out to a 13-5 lead in the first quarter, forcing Wawasee into a chase mode it hasn’t performed well from this season.
Jairus Boyer and Bennett Hoffert would hit threes to keep the Warriors close, but NorthWood would answer on both occasions on the other end, extending a 26-14 lead at the half. NorthWood also pulled down eight offensive rebounds in the first half, which translated into seven points, a number Wawasee was unable to answer.
“I think we are a growing basketball team, and I feel when we are efficient, that shows we are becoming more consistent,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe, whose club shot 20-38 (53 percent) from the floor on the night. “Our guys are playing better together as we grow. They’re a very fun team to coach.”
Those early numbers would only inflate for the Panthers in the second half, outscoring Wawasee 11-1 on second-chance points and winning the rebound battle 30-19 overall and 10-5 on the offensive glass. Kaden Gongwer, again filling in admirably while Caleb Glick continues on the mend from injury, hit three treys in the first half and wound up with 10 points overall. Lung added eight rebounds and Brad Delio finished with eight points, five boards and five assists. Smart, while not a statistical highlight, finished with four points and five rebounds, but his presence and pestering inside on the defensive end made a huge difference.
Smart’s play on containing Trevon Coleman kept Wawasee out of sorts early. Coleman, who handled nearly all of Wawasee’s possessions early in the first quarter, would score just four points on 2-8 shooting on the night.
Aaron Evans led Wawasee with nine points, six coming from the free throw line, and Jacob Hand had eight points, five assists and four rebounds.
“You could see our philosophies and what we are attempting to do in getting the ball inside to Trevon,” said Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “We were unable to convert some of those early baskets on the inside and that made it difficult and put a lot of pressure on our shooters. NorthWood had the ‘it’ factor tonight and Wawasee didn’t. That’s what it came down to.
“They answered every bell we rang. We would sneak back into it, we kinda think well maybe, and they come down and make a 5-7 point spurt and put it out of reach.”
NorthWood moves to 2-0 in the NLC, sitting atop the conference standings with Memorial after the Chargers knocked off the Pilgrims Friday night. Wawasee falls into a logjam in the middle of the standings at 1-1, joining victorious Concord and Warsaw as well as Northridge all tied for third. Goshen is 0-2 and joins Plymouth in the basement for a week.
NorthWood (8-2) will prep for a visit from Northridge next Friday while Wawasee (3-7) has a makeup date with Angola Saturday night.
“I think we are getting good guard play,” Wolfe said. “I think Kaden Gongwer is giving us a perimeter threat. He is maturing as a basketball player and his decision making continues to grow. Yet, Nick Bean has been phenomenal, filling in for the Caleb Glick spot. I think that will just make us deeper in the future.”
Added Everingham, “We played more man tonight than we have in the past because we were forced to playing from behind. We really need to do a better job of boxing out our zones. They were finding openings. Smart and Lung just killed us on the boards. When you are unable to finish on the inside and then you get killed on offensive rebounds, it makes it really hard to compete.”
NorthWood rebounded from a two-point second quarter to hold off Wawasee, 39-32, in the JV opener. Ben Vincent led the Panthers with 12 points and four assists and Trent Edwards had 10 points. Ethan Hardy paced Wawasee with 10 points and four boards while Evan Eshbach dropped in seven points and four rebounds.