For the first half of Northmor’s 43-40 win over Mount Gilead Friday night in a home KMAC contest, fans of both teams were probably wondering if either team would reach the 20-point mark.
Strong defensive play by the teams combined with shooting struggles led to a pair of beleaguered offenses locked in a 6-6 tie going into halftime.
“I was joking with the refs that this is a pitchers’ duel,” said Golden Knight coach Zach Ruth. “A win’s a win. We go into our break at 4-2. We have to get into mental shape because our schedule gets really tough after the break.”
As MG coach Dan Strasser noted, his team’s early defensive play was a positive, regardless of offensive struggles.
“We talked about how stats come and go,” he said. “You can’t rely on offense every night. Defensively, we played outstanding. Our rebounding was outstanding despite being outsized.”
Both teams woke up offensively in the third quarter, with Mason Mollohan and Jackson Huffer connecting on three-pointers to put MG in front 14-10. Northmor would get back-to-back shots from Hunter Mariotti to tie the game, but the Indians got another Mollohan three on an assist by Brad Landon as he was falling out of bounds. Huffer then added two points to make the score 19-14.
Northmor would battle back, getting four more points by Mariotti to get within one. Ruth noted that the junior has been a versatile player for his team this year.
“We ask a lot from Hunter,” said the coach. “We have two kids out of position in Logan Randolph and Hunter Mariotti. Within a span of three minutes, he can be our point to having to screen up.”
After another Mollohan three, Northmor got a long range shot by Blake Miller and a steal and basket from Randolph to take the lead at 23-22. Mollohan connected on two free throws to put MG back up by one, though, and they still held a 26-25 lead going into the final quarter.
Strasser said that a big focus of his halftime talk was reminding his players of Mollohan’s presence on offense.
“At halftime, we talked about getting Mason the ball,” he said. “He’s working his butt off inside and I thought a couple times, he had great position and didn’t touch the ball.”
Five quick points by Landon early in the fourth quarter helped MG extend their lead to a 32-27 margin. However, Northmor had the answer again, getting two points from Miller and three from Randolph to tie things at 32. The game would still be deadlocked at 34 points with just under two minutes to go, but the Golden Knights would dominate the scoring during that span.
Cole Dille scored from the field and Randolph then connected on a pair of free throws to make it 38-34. Miller added a basket and Randolph hit another one from the charity stripe to turn a 34-34 game with 1:48 remaining to a 41-34 score with 40 seconds left in regulation. While the Indians got three-pointers from Brandon Stevens and Landon in the final seconds, they would not be able to catch their opponents.
“A lot of teams over the Christmas break either come out better or are out there hoping for spring,” said Ruth in explaining how important the win was after the team lost to East Knox earlier in the week. “If we were to lose tonight and go from possibly being 5-1 to being 3-3, we’d really have to gut-check these kids.”
As for the Indians, Strasser said his team simply needs to take better care of the ball, as he felt turnovers played a big role in the loss.
“We also talked about possessions,” he said. “Every possession counts. They’re all equal value. I don’t even want to say how many turnovers we had. We have to find a way to fix it.”
Mollohan led MG with four three-pointers and 16 points. Huffer scored 12 and Landon had eight. For Northmor, Randolph scored 12, Miller added 11 and Mariotti finished with 10.
After the game, Ruth gave a lot of credit to the Northmor community, saying his Golden Knight teams have won 23 straight games at home, as well as thanking John and Bonnie Heston, who retired as the team’s bookkeepers after holding that responsibility for several years.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS