NAPPANEE – For those who took in NorthWood’s season-opening win against South Bend Riley, Tuesday’s 65-16 romp over Mishawaka was a more refined version of what could be a scary good Panther team.
“Yeah, we’ll take 65 points a game,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder after his team’s win. Yoder, whose team is scoring 61 points per night after three games, was extra dapper at the announcement that his Evansville Aces had just knocked off No. 1 Kentucky minutes before. “They were held to six there with just a couple minutes left. I was really proud of them taking what the coaches were telling them before the game about this game and made it work.”
A slow start in the first half still had NorthWood building a 17-6 lead. Mishawaka wished it would have stayed even remotely close to that score. The Panthers would tally the game’s next 38 points over the course of the remainder of the first half, the entire third quarter, and to the 4:57 mark of the fourth when Izzy Kukla mercifully got an offensive rebound and a putback to end the run. At that point it was 55-8 Panthers in what had already been a runaway.
The Panther standouts again were the posts, with Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli overpowering an undersized Mishawaka interior. Payne got rolling during a 20-0 third quarter spurt, scoring eight of her game-high 20 points. Rulli, despite missing several point blank chances, had 12 points.
Alea Minnich led a hot-shooting attack for the Panthers, hitting three from beyond the arc to score 15 points. NorthWood hit seven threes on the night, Bre Wise hitting a pair for her six points and Kendal Miller and Karlie Fielstra both landing one and settling at five points each.
One fun note of the night came during the third quarter in a Mishawaka timeout when PA announcer Mark Mikel notified the crowd that both Payne and Miller, along with Caroline Mullet hidden in the student section across the floor, were all named All-State in volleyball as uber-proud head coach Hilary Laidig beamed with pride from the corner of The Pit working the broadcast with her volleyball assistant coach Mark Heeter.
The Cavemen looked lost in its offensive and defensive sets, often turning to a bewildered coach Sarah DeShone, who did everything but physically walk on the court and position her players. Bre Udongo had four first-half points for the Cavemen, but also had four fouls for much of the second half in limiting her presence. Mishawaka also eclipsed two dozen turnovers in the contest.
“I think our defensive intensity was much improved from what I saw a week ago against Riley,” Yoder said. “Sometimes all of that adrenaline throws your shot off a little bit because you haven’t been doing it all the time. You haven’t been practicing like that, you haven’t been playing like that as much as maybe you should have been.
“Tonight was all about us moving the ball and us playing really hard man-to-man defense.”
Mishawaka did have its junior unit pick up a win over NorthWood’s in a 39-24 final.
NorthWood moves to 2-1 on the season and takes its show on the road Saturday to Rochester. Mishawaka (0-2) jumps into its final Northern Indiana Conference schedule with a visit to South Bend Washington Thursday night.