By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Friday night’s championship of the Banker’s Classic Holiday Tournament had a decidedly NLC feel to it.
Area rivals Northridge — the tournament host — and NorthWood were the two teams left standing after two days of basketball that saw each team play four games in a little more than 30 hours.
It was NorthWood emerging victorious Friday night in the championship game, 58-38.
The Panthers (11-3) also defeated Concord, 62-40 in pool play earlier in the day.
NorthWood coach Steve Neff said his team continued a season-long maturation process.
“This is a tough tournament, with some quality teams, especially Northridge,” Neff said. “We grew up tonight.”
Junior forward Morgan Olson led the Panthers with 23 points. Taylor Fielstra added 15.
Olson said her team’s defense made the difference.
“And my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball tonight,” Olson said.
Olson earned tournament MVP honors for her efforts, which also included 25 points in the earlier win over Concord.
But for Olson, the more important honor was the team trophy, which she and her teammates each got to hold for pictures after the victory.
For awhile Friday night, this one seemed like any other night in the NLC, as both teams sized each other up warily throughout a first quarter that saw Northridge with a razor-thin 9-8 advantage at the first stop.
NorthWood began to take control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Raiders, 12-4 in the stanza and leading 20-13 at intermission.
The Panther defense shone in the second, keeping the Raiders off the scoreboard for the final six minutes of the first half.
NorthWood scored the first two points of the third quarter for a 22-13 advantage, then Northridge finally put a couple of shots together, with back-to-back trifectas by Haley Schrock to slice the NorthWood lead to just three at 22-19.
But NorthWood had a response to the brief Raider run, pushing out to lead 33-24 at the final stop.
From there, the Panthers cruised to the tournament title, leading by as many as 22 down the stretch.
Northridge coach Doug Springer said his team picked a bad time to have a bad shooting night.
“Give all the creadit to NorthWood. We have no excuses,” Springer said. “Luckily, this wasn’t a conference game.”
The Raiders return to NLC action next Saturday night at home against Warsaw. NorthWood travels to Wawasee, also next Saturday night.