NAPPANEE — After three and a half nip-tuck quarters opposite visiting Bremen, NorthWood’s girls basketball team got the ‘W’. Not only that, but a 9-0 run late in the fourth gave the Black Swish enough separation to give seniors Kenzie Bergman and Neely Trenshaw a chance to take their final bows before the final buzzer sounded on a 45-34 senior night win at The Pit.
“I love those two seniors. I was really happy that we got a win on senior night and that we were able to take them out and give them a little curtain call there at the end. Just two super kids,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder.
“I’m glad we’re doing senior night on this night, and now we get to celebrate for them the rest of the season. It’s kind of hard on senior night because we’re almost to the end of the season and it’s kind of emotional, but I’m glad we get to spend the next, hopefully, two months with them.”
There was just one lead change in Thursday’s game, but the Lions remained within striking distance of their hosts most of the night, even tying it up once with Bailey Vermillion’s 3-pointer from the wing on an Erin Coffel swing with just 23 seconds remaining until halftime. But Trenshaw got into the paint and found Maddy Payne for a lay-in with two seconds on the clock to give the home team a tenuous, 22-20 halftime advantage.
NorthWood spaced that lead out to six over the third period, but Bremen remained just one or two possessions away until a 9-0 run in the fourth featuring a pair of putbacks by Kate Rulli and a couple key defensive rebounds and free throws by Trenshaw pushed the cushion out to the Panthers’ biggest lead of the night at 45-33 with only 37 seconds left to play. Kaelyn Shively’s offensive rebound and an ensuing free throw brought the score to its final margin.
Bergman knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in some critical moments on her way to 10 points on senior night. Trenshaw finished with just two points but passed out seven assists facilitating the NorthWood offense and collected four steals on the defensive end on senior night.
“They do a lot of the little things. They’ve been on the floor a lot for us in the past four years and been given a lot of tough defensive assignments,” said Yoder of his two seniors. “Always trying to fight, always trying to do the things that we ask them to. They’re great leaders for our basketball team this year.”
The Black Swish weren’t lights out on the offensive end, but they weren’t too shabby either, finishing at a 17-of-38 (44.7 percent) clip from the floor. The difference was provided by their defense as they held a normally prolific Bremen offense to 12-of-40 (30 percent) shooting, including a 4-of-22 second half by the visitors.
“We only had one day to prepare, but we focused a lot on defense and rebounding yesterday, and I think that showed in our offensive performance. We weren’t very consistent offensively, but we did enough to get the job done,” explained Yoder. “But defense and rebounding were outstanding. That team averages over 50 a game. That’s a really, really good basketball team who I think is going to make some noise in the 2A tournament.”
NorthWood also redoubled its rebounding efforts in the second half, finishing with 20 caroms to Bremen’s 16. The Lions actually enjoyed a 30-28 rebounding advantage led by 6’1 senior forward Karlee Feldman’s 13 points, but they were able to convert few of their 12 offensive rebounds into second chance points.
“We were fronting Feldman so it’s hard to rebound out of that,” said Yoder. “Coffel and Shively do a good job of attacking the boards for them, but they really weren’t attacking the boards much in the first half so our guards kind of stayed back there and didn’t really attack. Once our guards started rebounding a little better… that definitely stemmed the tide for us.”
While Feldman, who was averaging better than 12 points an outing, was limited to seven points in Nappanee, NorthWood’s front court combo of Rulli and Payne notched 12 points apiece, and Rulli finished with seven rebounds.
“That’s the luxury we have having two of them. We can run them both at (Feldman) all night long,” Yoder said. “We did a great job of running our transition up and down the floor, making her run the entire night. That’s kind of our philosophy, and eventually the dam kind of broke through and we were able to get some easy buckets in transition there at the end.”
Bremen (10-4) was paced by Feldman’s and Coffel’s seven points each and got another six from Shively and Haylie Rodriguez.
NorthWood (10-3) earned its fifth straight win, all in the month of December. The Panthers will have a short holiday layover before resuming play at the Northridge Tournament Dec. 28-29 versus Columbia City and Rushville on day one and Merrillville on day two.
“We’re growing. We’re a couple two-point games away from being a one-loss team. We lost to Concord by two; we lost to Norwell by two,” said Yoder. “So we’re really happy with where we’re at, but I know that over the next two weeks we’ve got to do a lot of growing in our toughness, in our kind of want to in these close games. We’re getting there, but there’s a long way to go.”
NorthWood’s JV opened the evening with a 32-13 win over its guests. Brenin Knight scored 10, ad Ali Dutkowski finished with six to lead the home team in that contest. Bremen’s JV was paced by Mirella Duran’s five points.