AKRON – NorthWood officially put Sectional 21 on notice Tuesday night.
The Panthers traveled to Tippecanoe Valley and made quick work of the hosts in a 63-48 girls basketball result. The tussle between the two hottest teams in the six-team sectional had NorthWood use a 16-2 run in the second quarter to put the game on cruise control.
NorthWood, winners of nine of its past 10 coming into the night, went to its bread and butter early, feeding both Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli inside early and often, testing Valley’s defensive resistance of Makenzie Woodcox and Hayley Backus. The more fortified NorthWood duo started the run in the second quarter, Rulli drawing a bucket and one, and on the missed try, Payne got the offensive rebound and putback, sending NorthWood to a 25-13 lead.
Kenzie Bergman then scored five of her 13 points in a quick series, burying a three then creating a steal and layup on the other end. Neely Trenshaw canned a three from the corner and very quickly Wood was ahead 35-13 and not looking back.
“Our guards have figured out that hey, if I give up the ball, I’m going to get it back,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “If teams trap the post, the ball will come back out and the shots are then available. We’re seeing that a lot, and our guards are responding to it.”
Amongst all the flurry, NorthWood’s post had scored 18 of the team’s 37 first-half points, and would have Rulli finish with 12 points and Payne 10 points.
Trenshaw would continue to affect the game in several ways, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds, coming up with a trio of steals and finishing with 13 points in one her best all-around performances of the season.
Karlie Fielstra added nine points among NorthWood’s 15th win of the season.
“I don’t know if we have anybody on our schedule that has two post players of the quality they have,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chris Kindig. “Then you throw in their other shooters and that’s a really tough matchup. We’re going to have a lot of work to do. That’s going to be a dogfight. All those other teams in the sectional are going to have the same thing we have. They are a tough matchup.”
Valley, which entered the contest winners of seven of its past eight which included wins over sectional opponents Lakeland and West Noble, had no answers for NorthWood Tuesday night. Kindig tried all sorts of gadget defenses to cover the post, even sinking 5-6 Emma Craig on the 6-0 Rulli and Jillian Walls diving in to double the 6-1 Payne. Offensively, Valley never got the game into single digits in the second half, falling behind by 16 after three quarters and even with a Woodcox and-one and Sophie Bussard deuce to open the fourth, NorthWood still maintained a 51-37 advantage.
Yoder admitted to waiving the red cape at Bussard, who got her points with 24 to lead all scorers, but daring Valley to find another scorer. Woodcox would provide some of the slack with 12 points, but the next contributor was Backus with five points.
“Bussard is going to get hers, there is no question about it,” Yoder said. “You’re talking about one of the best players in the area, if not the state. Our philosophy with Sophie this year, at least in this game, was just try and defend her as best we could for one shot and take our chances with that one shot and not give her a second one, then we’ll take everything else that happens. What a super player she is.”
Kindig, whose team drops to 12-5 overall, noted his team has a long way to go, but still has plenty to prove. Up next needs to lead in, Rochester coming to Valley Saturday night.
“We’ve got a lot to play for here,” Kindig stated. “We have four conference games out of our five games left. Obviously our focus now is to run the conference table to at least share that TRC title. We have a lot to play for here. We can’t look back on this NorthWood game and whoa is us. We have to keep moving forward and keep getting better. There’s no reason why we can’t win these last five games if we play the way we are capable of playing.”
NorthWood (15-4) also has a mega matchup for Saturday, hosting Northridge Saturday night in a Northern Lakes Conference spectacular, Ridge 4-0 and Wood 3-1 in the standings. NorthWood beat Northridge in the championship of the Banker’s Classic at Northridge over the holiday break.
In the JV contest, NorthWood led coast to coast in a 33-16 final. Emma Martz scored seven of her nine points in the first quarter and Reagan Hartman dropped all nine of her points in the third quarter, where NorthWood built a 27-12 advantage. Ashley Butler led Valley with eight points.