GALION — After winning their first five Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference games this season, Northmor suffered its first league loss in emphatic fashion Friday night when visiting Highland pulled away over the middle two quarters to take a 79-58 win.
Early in the second quarter, the Scots trailed 23-19, but would outscore Northmor 16-4 the rest of the way in that period and then took the third by a 16-7 margin to open up a 17-point lead.
“For me, what I look at is that we finally played four quarters,” said Highland coach Chris Powell. “We’ve played three quarters in all our games and we’ve won some and lost some. When we play four, we have special guys.”
The Scots got out to a fast start, getting a three-pointer by Quin Winkelfoos and shots from Mack Anglin and Max Schreiber to take an early 7-0 lead. Some good shooting would get Northmor back into the game, though. Trailing 10-2, they got back-to-back three-pointers by Brock Pletcher to close within two.
Highland fought to maintain a slim lead, getting a pair of three-pointers by Schreiber and a basket and free throw from Kaleb Phillips. However, Northmor got six points from Alijah Keen and a third three by Pletcher to stay within two. Tyler Kegley then tied the game at 19 in the final seconds of the quarter.
Keen opened the second period with two straight shots to put the Knights up 23-19, but Highland dominated the rest of the quarter. Schreiber would connect on two more threes and Phillips, eligible to make his season debut as a transfer from Big Walnut, added six more points. Powell noted that adding Phillips to his rotation gives the team a new facet.
“Kaleb Phillips plays for us for the first time,” he said. “He adds another guy we can run — our depth is so critical. He has handed it (sitting out half the season) like a true professional. He’s showed up every day, helped teammates and been positive. He acted like every practice was his game.”
While Powell was ecstatic after the game, Northmor coach Zach Ruth was of the opinion his team didn’t give its best effort.
“Our guys didn’t come to play tonight,” he said. “I think I have guys in cruise control. Our practices haven’t been as intense. They have to see the failure to learn. At the end of the day, we’re still first in the league or tied with Centerburg, but you have to take care of business at home. Highland kind of invaded our court and took it from us.”
Northmor’s problems continued in the third quarter. While Kegley tallied six points in the period, the rest of the team only mustered one. Meanwhile, Highland got five points from Anglin and four from Colten Liszkai, as well as a three-pointer by Winkelfoos and shots from Schreiber and Phillips to move out to a 51-34 lead. Ruth noted that it was a bunch of little things that added up for his team.
“They tried to settle for jump shots,” he said. “We had guys shooting after one pass. Two times, I called time out and told them not to do something and they went out and did that thing. All those things turn it into an ugly night.”
Northmor was able to score effectively in the fourth quarter, but would not be able to make up any ground as Highland lit up the scoreboard for 28 points over the final eight minutes, including going 11-for-17 from the foul line, to improve to 7-5, 4-2 in league play. The Knights fall to 9-3, 5-1.
Ruth noted that the Scots had a definite depth advantage, something he feels could help them be a contender in the league race.
“Hats off to Highland,” he said. “That’s what they do — they’re nine deep and there’s not a team in the league that deep. Going forward, they pick up a lot of momentum tonight and hopefully, our guys learn from that.”
Northmor got 17 points from Pletcher, who hit those three early three-pointers. Both Kegley and Keen added 15. The Scots got 18 from Schreiber, including four three-pointers. Phillips tallied 15, Winkelfoos scored 13 and Liszkai contributed nine off the bench.
Powell said that while his players have had to learn a new system this year, this win shows they’re getting more comfortable on the court together.
“We’re starting to see our guys understand what we want out of them,” he said. “We’ve been working with they guys since Nov. 1 to put in a new system. It takes time and we’re looking at the big picture. We have a lot to play for. This was a really good win against a quality opponent.”