NAPPANEE – On a night when NorthWood was going to celebrate its basketball heritage, the Panthers figured it might as well cap the night with a reason to cheer once more.
Ben Vincent’s 21 points came up huge as NorthWood pulled away from Goshen, 52-43, Friday night among a celebration of 50 years of NorthWood basketball.
With several members of the first NorthWood team from 1969 in the house as well as program alumni scattered around a huge contingent in The Pit, the Panthers chalked up win No. 583 into the history books. It took some work as longtime rival Goshen made the game tight late, only for NorthWood to score the game’s last six points after the RedHawks had closed the lead to three points.
A Matt Dutkowski free throw with 2:30 to play gave NorthWood what looked to be an insurmountable lead at 46-36 given neither team had shown a penchant to score in bunches up to that point. Goshen, however, rapidly scored the next seven points, capped by a steal and layup by Eric Newell, and all of a sudden it was 46-43.
Goshen looked like it had NorthWood in another trap, doubling Vincent at the timeline, but somehow his push of a pass found Nick Bean open under the basket, and the layup stretched the lead up to five. After an empty Goshen possession, Vincent sealed the game with the 49th and 50th points of the contest, a fitting number to land on given the theme of the night.
“I’m really happy with how Ben played,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “Almost all of his baskets came at the end of a pass. So when he gets it going, I know our guys were looking for him. That was beneficial for him and for our team. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Vincent hit four threes on the night, two very big ones in the fourth quarter as Goshen began to install its trap defense. Bean finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists and Trent Edwards added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory.
NorthWood did a job bottling up Goshen’s Bryant Robinson, holding him to 14 points and five rebounds, two under each of his season averages. Joe Good tallied 13 points, six coming in the fourth quarter in keeping Goshen close.
“Bryant Robinson is a very good basketball player and has the ability to score in bunches,” Wolfe said. “We were just trying to limit easy shots. He is a very good rebounder and presented a lot of challenges that I think our guys accepted. He probably didn’t have his strongest game, and credit to our players for being a part of that.”
The night, however, belonged to the sentiment to the history. With five of the seven coaches in NorthWood’s history in The Pit, Wolfe sat 50 games shy of Dan Gunn’s 239 wins as the winningest coach in program history. Wolfe moved to 49 shy, but was waxing nostalgic about what the night represented as a whole.
“We’re very fortunate to live in the community that we do, and the support is tremendous,” Wolfe said. “To be able to celebrate 50 years of basketball here at NorthWood High School is very special. There are some special individuals as well as some special teams, and I thought it was uplifting for our players to know they were playing in front of a good crowd tonight.”
The JV game started off the night with some excitement. A Zack Barker jumper gave Goshen a 31-30 lead, but with 12 seconds to go, Jamarr Jackson got an offensive rebounds and putback to go, leaving the final score 32-31 Panthers. Jackson led NorthWood with 18 points and Caleb Schwartz added six points. Goshen had Barker, Tommy Cartagena-Garcia, Anders Revoir, Jarah Byler and Isaac Sawatzky all finish with six points.
Before the varsity game, NorthWood celebrated its Snowcoming festivities, with Matthew Lehman and Ashley Escamilla winning King and Queen.