HARTFORD CITY, Ind. — As much as the NorthWood Panthers tried to finish the game, they could not overcome their sluggish start.
NorthWood fell behind 8-0 early on and trailed by 16 points at halftime before falling to the Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger Saints, 50-44, in a semifinal game of the IHSAA Class 3A boys basketball regional Saturday morning at Blackford High School.
“The first half was not a quality one for us,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “Any time you have a poor half like that it is a combination of factors that creates a perfect storm. That is something that had not happened to this group throughout the season.
“This team had high expectations. I was so proud of them for the goals they set for themselves, but it always hurts when you fall short.”
NorthWood finishes 21-3. The 21 wins are the most in program history and the three losses are the fewest.
“We came out and did not play well in the first half. That killed us,” senior Jonathan Wilkinson said. “Dwenger threw a lot of people in the lane and tried to deny us driving to the basket. That is a big part of our offense.”
Senior Zach Zurcher agreed.
“Dwenger got us out of our offense,” Zurcher said. “They made it a lot harder for us to get the ball where we wanted it and that in turn made it a lot harder for us to score.”
Dwenger controlled the boards early on with a 9-1 edge in rebounds in the opening period.
“We could not have played much better in the first half,” Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff said. “We hit out shots early on and we were lucky NorthWood missed. NorthWood is a very good offensive team.”
Dwenger led 32-16 at halftime.
Despite NorthWood’s early deficit in rebounds the teams were tied 26-26 in rebounds. Zurcher made a huge impact for the Panthers as he grabbed 15 boards, many of the coming after intermission.