NAPPANEE – It’s the matchup many anticipated in the final, Lakeland meeting NorthWood. But both teams reached the final in two completely different fashions Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 3-A NorthWood Boys Basketball Sectional.
NorthWood 55, Tippecanoe Valley 34
It’s not often, if ever, a boys basketball team is shut out in the first quarter of a sectional game, but that’s what happened to Valley. The Vikings had the open looks, but had nothing fall in the opening eight minutes. And while the shooting woes Valley has experienced at times this season, NorthWood’s sharpshooting continued. The Panthers ran off a 19-0 run to open the game, helped by threes from Caleb Glick, Kaden Gongwer and Brad Delio.
Valley would finally get on the board when Tanner Trippiedi hit a three at the 7:21 mark of the second quarter, but NorthWood shifted inside to Caleb Lung and Luke Holland, which was too much for Valley to pull off any sort of comeback.
“All year we are not good enough shooters and scorers to withstand those,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chad Patrick of the early run by NorthWood. “We have had runs where we don’t score and we can’t overcome that. At 19-0, I didn’t think we were that tight, there was no pressure on us, doesn’t matter what happens. We were the underdogs and just had to come out and play.
“There were wide open shots again,” continued Patrick. “I kept thinking what do we need to change on offense? But when you are getting that wide open of a shot, sometimes you have to just make them. And we’ve struggled with that all year. Once again we had twos in front of our shooting percentage and that’s never a good day.”
The duo of Holland and Lung combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds, Holland netting a season-high 15 points. Coming off the heels of a superb game Tuesday night, Holland was the Energizer Bunny inside in just over 18 minutes of play. His hustle on the offensive glass afforded four second-chance points, a category NorthWood controlled, 11-3, in the game.
“Very proud of Luke Holland,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “I thought he just seems to be coming into his own here in the last month of the season. He’s playing very, very well for us. We’re very fortunate he is on our team.”
NorthWood’s efficiency, which was also displayed in a blowout of Fairfield Tuesday night, saw the Panthers record 17 assists on 22 made field goals. Delio, Glick and Nick Bean all had four assists in the game against the Vikings.
“I think sometimes our efficiency is predicated on our ability to pass,” Wolfe said. “We’re very, very fortunate when we have unselfish players that are good passers.”
Valley wraps up a seesaw 2017-18 season at 5-18 overall, on the short end of four of its last five games. Trippiedi finished up with 10 points, five assists and three steals, Alex Morrison had nine rebounds and Jalen Shepherd added eight points. Patrick, in his first season as a head coach, isn’t settled with how things came to be, but isn’t writing off the year as a lost cause.
“We knew this might be a struggle of a season,” Patrick said, noting offseason work from last year to what he expects this year. “We played a tough schedule this year, and coming in I had a couple people tell me we wouldn’t win four, that that’s how tough our schedule was. I didn’t believe it, I thought we could win half. We just didn’t shoot well. So we are starting Monday, there’s five or six guys committed to come in Monday already, and they will work hard. If we can improve in the offseason like we did during the year this year, we could be really good next year.”
Lakeland 54, West Noble 46
Lakeland looked like it was set to run away with the first game on several occasions, only to see West Noble fast approaching in the rearview mirror. The Lakers were up 23-10 in the first quarter and cruising to the sectional final, and again had a 10-point lead, 46-36, going to the fourth.
The Chargers, however, went on a 10-2 run in the fourth to make it a 48-46 game with 56.8 seconds left after Nick Knepper got a steal and layup. After Camron Bontrager missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end, West Noble had three looks at a tying bucket, but couldn’t get the ball to fall in. The Chargers also had a steal of Lakeland’s inbounds pass, but sent the saving toss back to the Lakers to which Lakeland would hit the final six free throws to advance.
Brayden Bontrager scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter and Camron Bontrager added 16 points. Trevor Franklin had 13 points to lead the Chargers (11-12) while Takota Weigold had 12 points and Cade Barhydt had 11 points.
NorthWood (17-5) will host Lakeland (16-9) Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the sectional championship. NorthWood is seeking its fifth sectional title in the past eight years while Lakeland is looking for its first title since 2008.