NAPPANEE – It took NorthWood a little bit to get going. But once the Black Swish got the train going, it didn’t stop in an 85-41 final over South Bend Riley in NorthWood’s girls basketball season opener Thursday night at The Pit.
Riley was more the aggressor early, taking a 7-5 lead after hitting a pair of deep shots. That was the last time the game would be close.
NorthWood would go on a 12-0 run aided by a three from Karlie Fielstra and a nice backdoor cut and conversion from Maddy Payne. The lead would stretch out to 23-7 after Fielstra nailed another three.
As Riley scampered to try to keep pace, NorthWood settled in and began to assert itself. Payne would finish with 12 points before fouling out in the second half, but the other big that teams will worry about this year, Kate Rulli, made her mark. The senior post her herself a career night with 31 points, making 10 shots from the floor and hitting 11-12 from the free throw line.
Rulli had 16 points at the half as NorthWood took a 50-17 lead into the lockerroom. For a volleyball group that just played in a regional final less than two weeks ago including Rulli, Payne, Alea Minnich, Bre Wise and Kendal Miller, NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder wasn’t surprised at what he saw as a whole.
“I didn’t know what to expect out of us, and I was a little worried with Riley because they were bringing a lot of players back,” Yoder said. “At the beginning, we have a tendency at least in my career coaching here, we come in and want to play so fast right out of the gate. They are so concerned with coming in and hitting home runs right away. We don’t need that, we need singles. We had two offensive fouls and four turnovers in the first half. I’ll take that.”
Minnich finished the night with 11 points, Miller and Emma Martz had seven points, Wise had five points and Fielstra hit three from deep and concluded with 12 total points.
Riley showed it could play early on, but had no answers defensively for NorthWood’s interior game. Jazmen Watts scored seven of her 19 points in the first quarter and showed flashes of a very versatile offensive game. Taylor Smith added six points for the Wildcats.
NorthWood (1-0) will face a stiffer test Saturday at The Palace when it takes on perennial state power Penn in a 1:30 p.m. contest.
“Rulli’s game tonight is very important for us because she wasn’t just scoring, she was getting offensive rebounds and doing a lot of little things to impact the game,” Yoder said. “We were without Maddy there for long stretches and Kate did a good job taking that role in the middle and making it her own.
“We showed tonight we are not ready yet to play four quarters of basketball,” continued Yoder. “We were really sluggish in the second half.”