Northmor was able to ride a fast start to their first win of the season in boys’ basketball Tuesday night against visiting Mount Gilead.
In their 59-51 win, the Golden Knights (1-2, 1-1 in league play) jumped out to an 18-5 lead over MG (2-2, 1-1) and never relinquished that advantage.
“It’s a huge lift off our shoulders,” said Northmor coach Blade Tackett after the win. “I think the kids wanted it so bad and I think that led to a little bit of sloppy play late, but a win is a win, I’ll take it. Now I think we’ll play a little more relaxed and a little better offensively. Overall, just super excited for our guys to get that one.”
Keying Northmor’s fast start were Hunter Fulk and Jaxson Wenger. The duo combined for the team’s first nine points and scored 14 of their 18 in the opening period.
“They’re dynamic in the open floor, which is why we like to get the ball out pretty quick and push on the dribble,” said Tackett. “They’re really hard to get in front of on defense, kind of like (Mount Gilead’s Matthew) Bland is. When that kid gets downhill on transition, it’s really hard to stop him. He has quick movements and is a great finisher and we feel the same way about Hunter and Jax.”
Bland scored two points in the first quarter for MG, while Carson Trainer tallied a three-pointer, but the team struggled offensively in the early going and also couldn’t stop the Northmor attack.
“Our assistant coach here said it the best — it wasn’t too little, too late; it was too much, too early,” said Indian coach Dan Strasser. “We gave them too much early on in the game and couldn’t get over the hump. We were there and things didn’t go our way to get over the hump.”
The Indians battled back in the second quarter, getting four points from Aaron Gannon and two each from Rowan Fitzpatrick, Quade Harris and Cameron Vickers to claw within a 21-15 margin with under three minutes left in the half. However, they wouldn’t get on the board down the stretch, as Northmor was able to boost their lead to a 13-point margin going into the break.
“I definitely think we were pressing a little bit early on offensively,” said Strasser. “Out of control and careless with the ball. I get that guys were a little amped up. It’s a county rivalry game. I think guys were just playing a little bit out of themselves and we didn’t shoot that well either. In the first half, we were 1-of-11 from three.”
Northmor was able to maintain a double-digit lead through most of the third quarter and held a 42-28 edge going into the fourth, but Mount Gilead was able to make it interesting down the stretch — something that didn’t surprise Tackett.
“That’s a really good second half team,” he said. “In their first three games, they played really hard in the second half. They gave us a couple haymakers there, but our guys are resilient and we did enough.”
Trailing 48-33 with 5:30 left in regulation, MG held Northmor scoreless for over three minutes, getting six points from Bland and three from Fitzpatrick in closing within a 48-42 score. Six more points by Bland made it 52-48 with 44 seconds left, but Northmor was able to get five free throws by Grant Bentley and two from Isaac Black down the stretch to pull off the win.
Bland finished with 17 points, while Gannon scored 13 and Fitzpatrick tallied eight for Mount Gilead. Strasser was happy to get a pair of injured players back in Carter Kennon and Cameron Vickers, noting that his team now can work to progress with its full roster.
“We are definitely excited to have those guys back,” he said. “Carter’s worked extremely hard to get back to this point. He’s a team captain and a four-year starter. He’s a major piece of the puzzle and we’re glad to have him back. We had to play some guys who weren’t necessarily ready or expected to play early, but they had to because of our injury circumstances. We have faith in those guys and they give us some depth.”
Bentley scored 17 for Northmor, while both Fulk and Wenger finished with 14. Tackett, while happy with the win, feels that to take the next step, his players will have to get more comfortable playing with a lead — noting that Centerburg came back from a 12-point deficit to beat them and that MG came close to doing the same thing.
“Our guys need to learn how to play with the lead because it’s not going to be the last time, in my mind, we’re going to have the lead in the fourth,” he said. “It’s a good learning experience for us.”