SPARTA — For a bit over eight minutes, Northmor played second-seeded Worthington Christian evenly in their Division III district semifinal hosted by Highland Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, they went nearly all the second quarter without scoring and couldn’t recover from that drought in falling 60-35 and seeing their season end with a 16-8 record. The Warriors improve to 20-4 in advancing to Friday’s district finals.
“We told them we knew what we were into,” said head coach Zach Ruth after the game. “The only thing we asked for is for guys to be more disciplined than we have been all year and we were in the first quarter.”
The two teams played back-and-forth basketball over those eight minutes. Baskets by Blake Miller and Graesin Cass staked Northmor to a 4-0 lead three minutes into the contest, but the Warriors responded with a 6-0 run to move in front by two. Trailing 8-6, the Golden Knights got a boost from Logan Randolph, who drew a foul while hitting a three-pointer and sunk the foul shot.
Worthington Christian tied the game at 10 on a tip-in by Kobe Buford, but Miller returned the favor to give Northmor the lead again. The quarter would end on a three-pointer by Derrick Hardin, giving the Warriors a one-point lead; however, the Golden Knights opened the second period with a bucket by Hunter Mariotti to reclaim the advantage at 14-13.
The rest of the quarter was all Warriors. Northmor was held scoreless the rest of the way, while WC scored 10 unanswered points with both Buford and Hardin getting four each to help their team take a 23-14 lead into the locker room.
Ruth felt that Worthington Christian’s pressure defense did a good job of forcing his team into offensive struggles.
“We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in the middle,” he said. “They did a good job of getting us to the sideline and we didn’t do a good job of rotating back.”
Northmor’s struggles continued into the third quarter, as the Warriors opened the period with four points by Tyler Kindberg and two from D.J. Moore to increase their lead to a 15-point margin. A basket by Randolph put an end to a 16-0 WC run, but they would tally the game’s next 10 points to balloon their lead to a 39-16 margin.
Despite five points by Miller over the final 3:30 of the third, the Warrior advantage would increase to 44-23 going into the fourth. Miller added 10 more points over the final eight minutes of regulation, but Northmor wouldn’t be able to cut into the Worthington school’s lead.
Miller finished with 19 points to lead all scorers in the game, while Mariotti added eight.
After his team’s season had ended, Ruth had nothing but good things to say about his senior class (Miller, Mariotti, Randolph, Alex Tuttle, Trent Reece and Zach Harriger) and their career accomplishments.
“This senior group leaves as seventh grade champions, eighth grade champions, freshman champions and varsity conference champions,” he said. “I’m very proud of that and very proud of our community. Thanks to Highland for hosting and thanks to our coaching staff.”