MIDDLEBURY — Northridge had no issues extending its win streak to 10 games Tuesday night as they knocked off Lakeland, 74-36, in a non-conference contest in Middlebury.
The game turned in the final four minutes of the first half. With the Raiders leading 19-14, the home team went on an 8-0 run in a 1:21 span to push the lead to 13. They would eventually go up 30-18 at halftime.
“We thrive on runs like that,” Northridge coach Scott Radeker said. “Anytime we can put together a few baskets, it gets our bench excited. We try to see how many times we can get three stops in a row in a game and how many times we can get three scores in a row in a game.
“Nine times, we got three stops in a row tonight. And six times, we got three scores in a row. We were on the right track of what we wanted to do, both offensively and defensively.”
Turnovers killed the Lakers in that stretch, as they had four in the final four minutes of the first half.
“That’s really the story of the game,” Lakeland coach Nick Burlingame said. “When we don’t turn the ball over and take care of it, I think we did some work and put ourselves in a position to be successful.”
The turnovers for Lakeland would continue in the third quarter as Northridge turned on the after burners. The Raiders outscored the Lakers, 26-6, in the frame to go ahead 56-24 heading into the fourth.
“We scored on our first 11 possessions in the second half, which was great execution,” Radeker said. “Our guys passed the ball; we got the cutters to the rim like we wanted to off the double teams. It was nice.”
“Northridge is really, really good, and we know they’re capable of going on a run,” Burlingame added. “It’s just, in the second half, I don’t know how many (turnovers) we had — a lot of turnovers. Can’t do much when you can’t take care of the ball.”
Even Radeker sometimes sits back and enjoys the show his team can put on when they’re in rhythm.
“It’s fun to watch sometimes,” Radeker said. “When our kids are playing well together and the ball is popping and moving … and even tonight, even though we missed some shots, guys moved the ball pretty well.”
Northridge’s lead reached as high as 43 late in the fourth quarter.
Lakeland (6-14) was led by the 23 points of junior Brayden Bontrager. Senior Braden Yoder chipped in seven, and juniors Mason Douglas and Bracey Shepherd had four each. The Lakers resume Northeast Corner Conference play Friday against Prairie Heights.
For Burlingame, it’s all eyes towards the future after Tuesday night’s performance.
“I think with this one, I think you pretty much dig a hole, put the basketball in it and you just move on from this one,” Burlingame said. “Northridge is probably the best team we’re going to play all year; obviously, extremely well coached. We just have to move on from this one. We have to get ready for Prairie Heights on Friday, a conference opponent. And then we have Angola, so we’re going to focus on those two and we’re going to put this one behind us quick.”
The Raiders were led in scoring by junior Sam Smith, who had 23 points. Senior Alex Stauffer contributed 15, senior Cam Knepp 11, junior Carter Stoltzfus 10, senior Drew Gayler eight, junior Clayton Stoltzfus three, and sophomores Blake Jacobs and Micah Hochstetler two each.
Northridge (15-5) has already wrapped up the Northern Lakes Conference title, going 7-0 in league play. They have three games remaining before the postseason tournament begins: home against Columbia City Saturday, home against Fairfield next Tuesday and at DeKalb to close the season on Friday, Feb. 28.
The Raiders won nine in a row to close the regular season last year before winning two sectional and a regional game. If they want to end the season on a 13-game winning streak, Radeker said his team needs to keep improving.
“The game plan is to keep getting better every day,” Radeker said. “That’s been our goal since day one. Each day, we want to take another step up the mountain. Each day, we talk about climbing a mountain, we talk about doing it together as a pack; coming in every single day and putting in the work that it takes to get better. I think our guys will continue to do that.”