NAPPANEE – Ben Vincent rolled his eyes after airballing his first shot of the 2019-20 basketball season. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
After a predictably nervous start, Vincent and his NorthWood teammates shook off the jitters and put on a commanding performance, roaring past Lakeland 75-43 Wednesday night at The Pit.
NorthWood was particularly aggressive to start, but found itself down 6-1. That would be the last time the Panthers would find itself chasing. Creating a 12-0 run, NorthWood carved out a 15-8 lead after the first quarter, and then scored 14 of the next 18 points. Right in the middle of it was Vincent, who nailed a three and some harm, followed by an and-one by Trent Edwards. An alley-oop from Vincent to Jason Borkholder on the fast break put Wood up 38-18 and the Panthers were well on their way.
“I feel the first quarter of the first game and the first quarter of the sectional are difficult to play in,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “We did not start very well. I was proud of our guys how they rebounded probably after three minutes. I was proud of our experienced players as they’ve been in that position before and understood that it’s a long game. I didn’t feel they panicked.”
Vincent put the game on ice after hitting three triples from almost the same spot in succession, running the lead to 30. Vincent led the Panthers with 19 points while Edwards did a little of everything with 17 points, four assists, three rebounds, three blocks and one steal. Edwards was 8-9 from the floor and hit his only free throw attempt on the and-one. His runner at the halftime buzzer was good, giving NorthWood a 20-point lead at the break.
Jason Borkholder was 5-5 from the floor and finished with 13 points and five rebounds. The Panthers overall had 10 players score and 15 get into the game, a facet not often seen in an Aaron Wolfe-run rotation.
“Any coach would love to get into his bench, and we were fortunate to have several guys not only get in, but contribute,” added Wolfe.
NorthWood’s defense, which created 15 Laker turnovers on 13 steals, also had five blocks and did a number on Lakeland’s star returner, Brayden Bontrager. The stocky forward was 0-11 from the floor and just 1-3 from the free throw line for one total point. Bontrager had three turnovers and at times looked rattled from the razzing he was taking from the vocal Panther student section, which was on his case all night.
Bracey Shepherd led Lakeland with 16 points. The Lakers as a team shot just 26 percent (11-43) from the floor.
NorthWood’s JV also won big, 65-23, over the Lakers. Cade Brenner was one of three to reach double digits in scoring with 14, adding four rebounds and four assists. Ian Raasch had 13 points and seven rebounds and Neez Smith added 11 points.
NorthWood (1-0) will take part in the Bud Brown Classic this Saturday in Muncie, facing Heritage Christian at 2 p.m. in its first contest. Lakeland (0-1) returns to work Dec. 6 at home against Fremont.