By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The NorthWood Black Swish had it all Saturday night. They had a strong start, then coasted in the third period before righting the ship in the fourth to hand veteran coach Steve Neff the 23rd sectional championship of his storied career.
NorthWood was up 27-10 at 4:30 of the second period before the West Noble Chargers rallied and got to within six points (30-24) at 2:56 of the third. The Black Swish hit their free throws down the stretch (9-of-12 in the fourth period) for a 48-33 victory.
“We played not to lose instead of to win,” Neff said. “We got out well, but then we became impatient. West Noble played one of their better games. We played some pretty good defense on them. When it came to crunch time we got it done.”
NorthWood (22-3) advances to the Class 3A regional next Saturday at Bellmont High School. The Black Swish will play Fort Wayne Concordia (17-6) at 10 a.m.
Savannah Bley, Maddie Schwartz and Taylor Stutzman are the lone seniors on the NorthWood roster.
“We wanted to win it for the seniors,” sophomore Jordyn Frantz said.
“That makes me feel good to hear that,” said Schwartz about Frantz’s comment. “We all love each other on this team and we all love the Lord. We want each one of us to have success.”
Schwartz is one of the unsung players for the Black Swish by quietly going about her business. She stepped up in a big way in the championship with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We have been working on getting her to shoot more all season,” Neff said.
Schwartz drilled a ‘3’ at 3:50 of the fourth period that put the Black Swish back up by 10 points.
“I was pretty confident tonight,” Schwartz said. “The time was now and I know even if I miss Savannah (Bley), Morgan (Olson) and Jordyn (Frantz) are there to clean up the rebounds.”
She also had a role in leading the team.
“Tonight it seemed like I was the one trying to calm everyone down,” Schwartz said. “I kept telling them that we were fine.”
Rebounding played a huge role in the contest as NorthWood held a commanding 29-17 advantage.
Olson capped off an outstanding week of play with her third double-double as she scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Fourteen of her points came in the first half as the Black Swish opened a 29-16 lead.
“We did a good job in transition early in the game,” Olson said. “The high post was open and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball.
“Later on we knew we had to pick up the energy level on defense.”
Olson made 9-of-18 field goals.
“I spent a lot of time going to the gym and shooting over the summer plus playing a lot of basketball,” she said.
“If Morgan gets the ball within smelling distance of the basket she is taking the ball to the rim,” Neff said. “She works well on the inside with Bley. Bley gets a lot of assists by getting the ball to Olson.”
Bley dished out four assists in the game.
Frantz pulled down nine rebounds to go with 10 points, four assists and six steals from her point guard position.
She credits a former NorthWood player for her improved level of confidence this season.
“I’m a lot more confident,” she said. “I have spent time working with my brother-in-law (Ryan Bradley). He has helped me with my ball handling and my confidence.”
Bradley, 2003 NW graduate, is fifth on the boys career scoring list at the school with 1,052 points.
Bley had seven points and seven rebounds for NorthWood. She had four fouls in the game and had to spend some time on the bench when West Noble was making its comeback.
“When Bley went out we wondered what are we going to do,” Neff said. “I think our bigs got a little tired. I didn’t sub as much tonight as normal.”
Junior Kelsie Peterson scored 10 points, senior Haley Richardson nine and senior Ashley Shepherd six for West Noble (16-8).
NorthWood 48, West Noble 33
WEST NOBLE — Ashley Shepherd 2-6 0-0 6, Kelsie Peterson 5-9 0-0 10, Paige Shearer 1-3 2-2 4, Haley Richardson 4-13 1-2 9, Kohdee Hicks 2-7 0-0 4, Taylor Fisher 0-1 0-0 0, Lexi Shepherd 0-2 0-0 0, Shawna Young 0-0 0-0 0, Cara Groff 0-0 0-0 0, Brooke Lutton 0-0 0-0 0, Priscilla Ortiz 0-0 0-0 0. Team: 14-41 3-4 33
NORTHWOOD — Maddie Schwartz 3-4 0-0 9, Jordyn Frantz 2-6 5-7 10, Savannah Bley 2-9 3-4 7, Taylor Fielstra 0-4 0-0 0, Morgan Olson 9-18 2-4 20, Inger Yoder 0-0 0-0 0, Ashley Yoder 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Stutzman 0-0 2-2 2, Haley Roe 0-0 0-0 0, Andrea Tuttle 0-0 0-0 0. Team: 16-41 12-17 48
West Noble 6 10 8 9 — 33
NorthWood 16 13 5 14 — 48
3-point goals: West Noble 2-8 (aShepherd 2-5, Shearer 0-1, lShpeherd 0-2). NorthWood 4-8 (Schwartz 3-4, Frantz 1-4).
Fouls: West Noble 13, NorthWood 10.
Rebounds: West Noble 17 (Richardson 8, Peterson 4). NorthWood 29 (Olson 10, Frantz 9, Bley 7).
Assists: West Noble 5 (Peterson 3). NorthWood 10 (Bley 4, Frantz 4).
Steals: West Noble 4. NorthWood 9 (Frantz 6).
Turnovers: West Noble 14, NorthWood 11.
Officials: Brett Ratcliffe, Chad Boldry and John Bellamy.