SYRACUSE — Pail Widner may not have been on the court scoring baskets, but there is no doubt as to the importance his role played in the NorthWood High School boys basketball team winning the Class 3A sectional championship Saturday night at Wawasee.
The school’s veteran trainer got senior player Zach Zurcher sufficiently recovered from a wrist injury sustained last Wednesday night to toss in a game-high 23 points as the Panthers defeated the West Noble Chargers, 75-61, in the finale.
“Zach had a tough week,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “We didn’t know until game time on Friday night if he was going to be able to play and then 24 hours later he has an exceptional game. Paul (Widner) was great in working with him.”
Zurcher made 9-of-17 field goals attempts, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.
“The wrist feels great now,” Zurcher said after the contest. “During the game I had to block out the pain. I’ll have to keep working hard to get ready for next week.”
After NorthWood’s semifinal win on Friday Wolfe listed Zurcher at 50 to 75 percent at the start of the game.
“It’s amazing how well Zach progressed in the last 24 hours,” Widner said. “He played with a lot more confidence tonight.”
Senior Jonathan Wilkinson, who tossed in 21 points, said about Zurcher, “Zach is a fighter.”
It’s the fifth sectional title in NorthWood history. Others were in 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2012.
The victory advances the Panthers (21-2) to the Blackford regional next Saturday at 10 a.m. where they will square with Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (15-8). Dwenger defeated New Haven 50-40 for its sectional title.
“This win is very satisfying since a year ago we lost in the championship game,” Zurcher said. “Coach Wolfe told us that no other senior class at NorthWood has ever won two sectional titles so it’s really great to be the first.”