The first time Northmor played Highland in boys’ basketball, they couldn’t hold a 12-point first quarter lead in falling by a 59-43 score. They didn’t make the same mistake twice on Friday.
After eight minutes of action, the Golden Knights found themselves in front by a 16-6 margin. This time, they were able to hold a lead for the rest of the game and were able to earn a 54-47 decision.
“To be honest, we got up by 10 and the only thing we talked about in the huddle was that the first time we played them, we were up 16-4,” said Northmor coach Blade Tackett. “They made some runs because they have some nice players and shooting, but we were able to maintain that lead because we’re getting better.”
Highland held a 2-1 lead early in the opening period after getting a basket by Garrett Fitzpatrick. However, that would be the only shot the Scots hit from the field in the opening period.
Northmor responded with a 13-point run sparked by Grant Bentley’s eight points to jump in front 14-2. The Scots got two free throws each from Jordan Bellamy and Brock Church, but found themselves behind by 10 after Bentley hit a pair of foul shots in the final minute of the period.
“He’s just a special player and individual,” said Tackett of Bentley. “To be honest, looking at the rest of the season and his future years, I can’t help but think that success will be sustained because he’s a special kid.”
“In the first quarter, we did not hit any shots and that was the difference,” said Scot coach Christian Toombs. “I thought they were all self-inflicted mistakes. It was us not taking care of the basketball.”
After the Golden Knights went up by 10, they were able to hold a consistent advantage the rest of the way. In the second period, they led by as many as 12, while the Scots were able to get within seven a couple times, but it was still a 10-point margin at the intermission at 32-22.
While both Fitzpatrick and Church scored three points in the third quarter, with Dane Nauman adding two, Northmor was able to hold a 39-30 advantage at the end of the period thanks to getting five points from Logan Mariotti and two from Graesin Cass.
Highland would be able to put a run together in the fourth quarter. After four points by Preston Harbolt and three from Cass helped Northmor open up a 47-36 lead midway through the period, Highland got two points from both Fitzpatrick and Nauman and one from Bellamy to close within a six-point margin with just under three minutes left in regulation.
However, they would not be able to get any closer. While both Nauman and Bellamy scored twice from the line, the Golden Knights got four points from Kooper Keen during that time to maintain a six-point lead.
Three straight free throws by Cass over two possessions boosted that margin to 54-45 with 30 seconds to go. Highland would get two more points by Fitzpatrick, but wouldn’t be able to climb out of that hole.
Toombs said that he feels, with the playoffs coming up soon, his team just needs to keep working.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year,” he said. “Have good practices.”
Bellamy scored 14 for Highland, while Fitzpatrick tallied 13. For Northmor, Bentley led all scorers with 17. Cass tallied 12, Harbolt had nine and Mariotti scored eight.
Tackett is hoping a tough end-of-season schedule will have his team ready for the playoffs.
“The rest of our year is a gauntlet,” he said. “We have undefeated Colonel Crawford, a River Valley team with two 1000-point scorers, we go to Danville and then, a week from Saturday, we’ll have the winner of Worthington Christian and West Jefferson. With Worthington Christian, we know them and their personnel and how good they are. Regardless of who we’re playing, the kids will practice hard and compete.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS