SYRACUSE – It was almost like a year ago, with the results the same in the opening game of the Class 3-A Wawasee Boys Basketball Sectional.
A favored Fairfield squad started cold while NorthWood took advantage of the opportunities to stun the Falcons. In game two, West Noble weathered the storm to eliminate Lakeland from the Sectional No. 21 bracket.
NORTHWOOD 53, FAIRFIELD 33
The sectional has seen these two teams square off the past three years, and in each case, the winner was a stunner. Two years ago, Fairfield upset NorthWood in the championship game, while a year ago NorthWood took out the highly-ranked Falcons in the opening round by 20. Tuesday night, NorthWood again took down the Falcons, which came into the tournament with a sectional-best 15 wins, but also with an experienced lineup built for scoring.
An 18-17 NorthWood lead quickly became seven at 24-17 heading into the half following three free throws from Ben Vincent and a three from Trent Edwards. That was the closest Fairfield would get, as NorthWood would build a 13-point lead on consecutive buckets from Nick Bean, Edwards and Jason Borkholder to take a 35-22 lead, then end the game on a 13-0 run.
“I think that is a strength of our basketball team this year that we have six kids that have been in double figures (scoring) this year,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “That kind of provides some consistency if one or two players are not shooting the ball tremendously well, someone else can pick up the slack. I was very proud of how they shared the ball tonight.”
NorthWood held Fairfield’s gunners largely in check. Cordell Hofer, who came into the game averaging over 15 points per game, saw his career close with just two points on 1-3 shooting, his only points coming on a bucket early in the second quarter. Peyton Faldoe wasn’t much better in his final game with the Falcons, his only three points of the game came midway through the first quarter.
Nolan Sharick led the Falcons with 18 points, but was a mere 3-14 from three-point range. Sharick, though, did have three steals, and two of those in the fourth quarter, along with a layup, that helped Fairfield trail just 40-33. That was as close as the fourth would get, though, as NorthWood closed out on the 13-0 run, aided by two Ben Vincent threes, who would lead the Panthers with 14 points.
Edwards ended with 12 points and four steals and Borkholder had 10 points and six rebounds, but played a key role in being in the right place at the right time.
“Jason Borkholder has continued to improve throughout the season,” Wolfe said. “Tonight was a culmination of the best game that I have seen him play. He was a difference maker rebounding and also was able to give us an interior punch and some interior scoring that we desperately needed.”
Fairfield closes out at 15-8 overall while NorthWood improves to 10-12 with its next contest Friday night in the semi-finals against Tippecanoe Valley (13-9). The two teams played on Feb. 13 in The Pit, NorthWood taking that game 51-45.
WEST NOBLE 58, LAKELAND 47
West Noble finally figured it out in the second half to pull away from Lakeland in game two of the night.
A 10-all game in the first half had West Noble go on an 11-4 run to end the half, then pull away from a six-point edge in the third quarter to beat Lakeland for the third time this season.
David Flores scored 21 points for the Chargers, with Joel Mast and Trevor Franklin both scoring 11 points in the victory. A 3-17 showing from behind the three-point arc for West Noble was made up by hitting 11-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. West Noble was 15-24 overall from the line in the game.
Lakeland had Brayden Bontrager score 19 points, but the Lakers’ inability to string together any momentum killed its chances. Lakeland was 14-19 from the stripe, but were an abysmal 4-22 from three-point range and turned the ball over 18 times.
Lakeland bows out of the tournament 7-16 while West Noble improves to 12-11 and prepares for a rematch with Wawasee (5-16) in the Hardwood Teepee Friday night in game two of the semi-finals. The Chargers beat the Warriors 50-48 in the regular season at Wawasee, but with a different mindset from then-coach Jim Best. Galen Mast took over the team following that game and is 10-9 since.