By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A fantastic late-game charge by the host Tippecanoe Valley Vikings was too much for the NorthWood Panthers to hold off Saturday night in the championship of the Winning Edge high school boys basketball holiday tourney.
The Panthers led 52-45 with 4:29 left in the contest only to be outscored by the Vikings 14-1 the rest of the way as NorthWood suffered its first loss of the season by a 59-53 score.
“You have to give Tippecanoe Valley some credit for playing a strong fourth quarter,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “For us it was a bad time to play poorly. We gave them some points off turnovers. We did not look like a seasoned time in the fourth. As the season moves along we are gaining experience. We used some of that experience to gain control going into the fourth.”
NorthWood had a good third period and took a 45-36 lead into the final period.
The Vikings went to a 1-3-1 zone defense with 6-3 junior Tanner Andrews out front. He deflected several passes with his long arms as the Panthers turned the ball over eight times in the quarter. NorthWood finished the game with 17 turnovers.
“Andrews does a nice job of leading the 1-3-1,” Wolfe said.
NorthWood hit 17-of-35 field goals in the game, but were only 2-of-9 in the final stanza.
“We did not knock down some of the perimeter shots late in the game like we had been doing earlier,” Wolfe said.
The Vikings were 14-of-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth, including 7-of-7 by Andrews and 5-5 of by 5-11 senior Nick Kindig. Overall the Vikings were 15-of-16 from the charity stripe.
Kindig was a thorn in NorthWood’s side throughout the contest as he poured in a game-high 28 points,
“Kindig has tremendous range, but he also has the ability to get to the line,” Wolfe said.
Kindig was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Andrews and 6-0 junior Robby Groom of the Vikings were selected to the all-tournament team. Others were 6-5 junior Zach Zurcher and 5-9 classmate Tanner Farmwald of NorthWood, 6-5 senior Brad Lantz of Fairfield and 6-2 senior Jonathan O’Dell of Rochester.
The Panthers got off a good start and had leads of 7-2 and 12-4 in the first period before the Vikings rallied to trail 18-14 at quarter’s end. Valley tied the score 20-20 on a layup by Kindig at 4:25 of the second. Farmwald drilled a 3-pointer (his third of the game) to put the Panthers back on top as NorthWood went on to hold a 26-25 halftime advantage.
Farmwald tossed in a total of 11 points in the contest on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Tanner did a good job of knocking down some shots from the perimeter,” Wolfe said. “That was nice to see.”
NorthWood got a basket from 6-2 senior Tommy Klem to start the fourth as the Panthers went up 47-36. Valley responded with a 9-0 run and when Kindig swished two freebies at 5:41 the Vikings trailed 47-45.
The Panthers surged ahead as Zurcher canned two tosses from the line at 4:56 and Klem had a three-point play at 4:29 to put NorthWood up 52-45. That’s when the Vikings put on their game-winning charge. Valley took its first lead at 55-53 on a pair of free throws by Groom with :49 remaining since a 25-24 advantage with 1:04 left before halftime.
“We didn’t have a player step up and make plays in the fourth quarter tonight like we have been having this season,” Wolfe said. “The effort was there. That is how we got a lead going into the fourth.”
Zurcher scored 14 points to lead the Panthers before fouling out with :49 left to play. Klem added 12 points and 6-5 junior Jonathan Wilkinson 11.
Andrews was the only other Viking in double figures with 19.
The Fairfield Falcons were 56-42 winners over the Rochester Zebras in the consolation game. Rochester got off to a 9-0 start before leading 13-10 at the end of the first period. Fairfield went on to lead 27-20 at halftime and 44-32 after three quarters.
“We survived that initial run by Rochester with some gritty play in a very physical game,” Fairfield coach Troy Beachy said. “We talked to the guys about being the aggressor in this game.”
The Falcons were led in scoring by 6-2 senior Garrett Scott with 17 points. Lantz added 16 and 6-2 junior Marcus Rodes 12.
Rodes was 4-of-4 from 3-point range in the second half.
“Rodes hit some big shots for us,” Beachy said. “He was not hitting early, but he has been told he is to keep shooting in situations like that. It takes a lot of confidence to keep shooting when you have not been hitting.”
O’Dell scored 11 points and 6-4 junior Luke Cannady 10 to lead the Zebras.