By Adam Yoder
NAPPANEE – In what has been a whirlwind finish to the regular season due to COVID related scheduling issues, the NorthWood girls basketball team played its seventh game in the last twelve days on Thursday night at home versus the visiting Plymouth Pilgrims.
Coach Dave Duncan’s squad salvaged a 48-34 win to make the ride back to Marshall County an enjoyable one.
Plymouth’s inside duo of Clare Sheedy and Taylor Delp were the focus early on as the Pilgrims continually pounded it inside and jumped out to a 12-0 lead.
The Black Swish hung around with eight points from Alea Minnich and four from Abby Steiner in the opening two stanzas. Bre Wise picked up two early fouls and was able to stay on the floor for a lot of the half without getting into more trouble, it certainly affected how aggressive she could be.
Despite the Panthers having it down to nine at 23-14 in the waning seconds of the half, Sheedy’s buzzer beating three-pointer gave her twelve points at the half.
“That possession was deflating for sure. We should have gotten that loose ball and they came up with it and hit a desperation three there. That’s hard to swallow going into the half,” NorthWood head coach Mark Heeter described.
The Panthers came out in the second half with a much more aggressive mindset on the defensive end.
“We started fronting the post better and pressured the ball more, and we got a lot of steals and deflections in that second half. We just didn’t make enough shots to give ourselves a chance,” added Heeter.
Unfortunately, Plymouth continued to pound it inside early and often which let to Sheedy and Delp finishing with 20 and 10 points, respectively.
Kendal Miller’s hot shooting versus Marian on Tuesday eluded her in the first half, but her aggressiveness getting downhill in the second half led to seven points and several dump off assists to her teammates.
Steiner added a second three of the game in fourth quarter on her way to seven points, and Minnich continued to lead the Panthers in scoring with 15.
Minnich, one of the state’s leading free throw shooters, had two uncharacteristic missed free throws on the night, and her teammates also struggled on the freebies as NorthWood was only 33 percent (4-12).
In another cruel twist of fate for NorthWood, who has seen their fair share this season, the Pilgrims finished the night 94 percent from the line (17-18). Plymouth came into the night shooting 55 percent as a team from the line.
Despite the losses piling up, Heeter saw flashes from his team thus far this week.
“We are getting better, you know and I know it. It’s showing up in how we’re playing these tough opponents this week,” Heeter said. “But, it’s more important that the kids know it and believe it. And I know its cliché to say, but everyone is 0-0 in about 10 days, so we have to find a way to put four solid quarters together, and I truly believe we can surprise some people in the sectional.”
Aaliyah Bonner netted four points and Macy Lengacher added a free throw for the Panthers.
Coach Heeter’s squad fell to 1-12 overall and 1-5 in the Northern Lakes Conference, while the Pilgrims improved to 10-8 and 3-2 in the NLC. Plymouth’s JV squad was also victorious 41-28.
The Black Swish travels to Goshen on Saturday night to try and upset the Redhawks’ NLC championship march. Coach Shaun Hill’s squad is currently 5-0 in NLC play with NorthWood and Mishawaka left on the schedule.