By GREG KEIM
---- — EMMA — In the first four minutes of the third quarter, the NorthWood Panthers managed to turn a one-point halftime lead into an 11-point cushion.
NorthWood went from a 23-22 lead at intermission to a 37-26 bulge midway through the third on the way to a 64-52 non-conference high school boys basketball win over the Westview Warriors in a rare Thursday night game.
“You have to give credit to Westview for the way they defended us the first 12 minutes,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “They took us out of our rhythm and we missed some shots around the basket that we made in the third.
“I felt the way we played in the first half we were fortunate to be ahead. We knew if we continued to make plays we would make a game of it. In the third, we made the shots and Westview missed some shots.”
The Panthers outscored the Warriors 24-13 in the game-turning quarter.
“The game was won over the final two minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second,” Westview coach Rob Yoder said. “NorthWood is a really good team, but we made them look better ... I think we defended them good enough to be in the game and we took good enough care of the ball to be in it. It was our shot selection. We rushed shots. We had five shots blocked. You are not open when you have that many shots blocked.
“They made the plays when we didn’t.”
NorthWood (3-0) hosts Fairfield and Westview (2-2) visits Central Noble, both on Saturday.
The Panthers got a spark off the bench with the play of 5-7 senior Kyle McCoy. He swished two huge 3-pointers in the second period as NorthWood recovered from a 12-9 deficit at the end of the opening period. The first pulled his team to within two points (14-12) at 7:01 and the second cut a six-point Westview lead (23-17) in half with 1:32 remaining in the stanza.
“Kyle had a phenomenal year as our starting point guard last season, but this year has become our sixth man. He is in the role the (6-5 senior) Will Stueve played a year ago,” Wolfe said.”He has accepted the role.”
Wolfe likes the trio of guards he has in starters 5-9 senior Tanner Farmwald, 6-1 sophomore Braxton Linville and McCoy.
“The combination of the three of them can loosen a defense up and give Stueve, (6-5 senior) Zach Zurcher and (6-5 senior) Jonathan Wilkinson room on the inside,” the coach said.
Wolfe pointed out that Linville had seven assists and Farmwald three with only one turnover between them.
NorthWood had only seven turnovers in the entire game with five of them coming in the fourth period.
McCoy has accepted his new role this season.
“At first I was a little confused, but Braxton is a great ball handler,” McCoy said. “There are times in practice when he may not know what is going on and it’s my job as a senior to help him out.
“We have a great team with Zurcher and Wilkinson down low. They can score down there and if teams go down to cover them it opens things outside for our shooters.”
NorthWood was facing a great point guard in 5-10 Westview senior Jordyn Bontrager. He scored a game-high 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists and made two steals.
While all those numbers are impressive one of the most noteworthy things he did in the game may have been when he blocked the shot of one of NorthWood’s 6-5 players.
“Jordyn is good,” Yoder said. “He has had a lot of games where he is in control. One thing people may not realize about him is he is so young. He’s only 17. He could be a junior. We have some juniors that are older than he is.”
NorthWood had a balanced offense with four players in double figures and one more that just missed out. Zurcher finished with 15 points, Wilkinson 14, Stueve 12 and McCoy 10. Linville had eight points, hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Also for Westview, 6-3 junior Chandler Aspy had 10 points and 5-11 senior Jamar Weaver nine.
NorthWood had a 30-25 edge on the boards. Wilkinson had seven rebounds, Linville and Stueve both six. Aspy had seven and 6-3 senior Judah Zickafoose five for the Warriors.
Westview is still missing two players. Six-foot senior Daron Miller is out for a disciplinary reason, according to Yoder, and 6-1 sophomore Chase Anderson due to a broken arm.
“Daron will be back for the Lakeland game and Chase should return the first or second week of January,” Yoder said.”We are an improving team, because we are starting to get players healthy. Of all the players, Daron and Chase will help us the most.”