By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
With Christmas four days away and two of the better girls basketball teams in the area meeting here Friday night when South Bend Washington visited the Panther Pit to take on NorthWood, Santa Claus figured to bring one of the teams an early gift in the form of a nonconference victory.
And when it was all said and done, NorthWood and its fans ended up going home happy as the Panthers held off their South Bend counterparts for a 70-61 overtime win.
This one was just as close and hard-fought as the final score indicated: NorthWood was up 59-56 with seconds to play, but a Washington buzzer-beating 3-pointer sent the contest into extra time, as Washington’s Tiara Murphy — who led all scorers with 38 points — fouled out with five seconds left in regulation.
NorthWood quickly took control in overtime, scoring the first six points of the extra period.
That burst out of the gate in overtime was crucial, according to NorthWood junior forward Morgan Olson, who led her team with 30 points.
“It was important for us to retake the momentum,” Olson said.
Olson had a free throw and a bucket in overtime.
NorthWood coach Steve Neff said his team took a step forward.
“I feel like we grew up a bit tonight,” Neff said.
Northwood (7-3) opened with a quick 8-2 run in the game’s opening two and a half minutes, but Washington (9-3) weathered the early NorthWood charge nicely and outscored NorthWood 16-8 over the remainder of the stanza to take am 18-16 advantage at the first stop.
But NorthWood ramped up its defense early in the second quarter, opening with a 12-0 run and keeping Washington off the scoreboard for the first 5:30 of the period. Keyed by 10 points from junior forward Morgan Olson, the surge pushed NorthWood out to a double-digit lead at 32-21.
Washington, however, again had an answer, closing the half on an 8-0 run keyed by a pair of Tiara Murphy treys to close to within a trifecta at 32-19 at intermission.
A game of runs and momentum changes swung NorthWood’s way again to start the third quarter as NorthWood opened the period on a quick 4-0 spurt to get back out to a seven-point advantage at 36-29.
But Washington responded with a 6-0 run to cut it to one at 36-35.
NorthWood closed out the third on a 10-4 run to take a 46-39 lead into the decisive final quarter and NorthWood led by as many as nine at
53-42 early in the period.
But Washington made another charge, this one again keyed by Murphy, as Washington closed to within one at 52-51 with just over three minutes left.
In addition to Olson’s 30 points, NorthWood got 18 from Jordyn Frantz and 15 from Savannah Bley.
NorthWood was a 49-39 winner in the J.V. contest. Haley Roe led the NorthWood jayvees with 14 points as NorthWood improved to 9-1.
NorthWood is idle until Dec. 27 when the Panthers will play in the Northridge Tournament. South Bend Washington returns to action also on Dec. 27 when the Panthers host their own tournament.