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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Fairfield, NorthWood earn way to 3A Sectional 20 championship game

Mar. 1—LAGRANGE — A squeaker and a runaway set the championship match-up in the IHSAA Class 3A Lakeland Sectional 20 boys basketball tournament.

In the semifinals Friday, March 1, Fairfield routed West Noble 52-25 and NorthWood outlasted Lakeland 46-43.

The Falcons (18-6) and Panthers (15-8) are to meet for the sectional title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2.

NorthWood has won 12 sectional titles — the last in 2023. Fairfield's ninth sectional crown came in 2017.

The Chargers wound up 8-15 and Lakers 17-7.

Friday's games were both rematches. During the 2023-24 regular season, West Noble beat Fairfield 54-46 on Jan. 26 and NorthWood bested Lakeland 76-49 on Feb. 10.

Fairfield 52, West Noble 25

"Our defense was just consistent all tonight," said Falcons coach Derek Hinen. "We made it tough on them from the start. We were playing hard, switching, getting in the passing lanes and knowing the scouting report.

"We were able to help on (Bradyn) Barth. He's one of the best players in (the Northeast Corner Conference). We made him catch it a little farther from the basket most of the time and we always had the help defender there."

Scoring for Fairfield were Mitchell Miller (16 points), Brant Garber (12), Carson Smith (9), Brooks Custer (6), Tyson Frey (4), Ezekiel Yoder (3) and Alex Hofer (2).

The Falcons, which snapped a two-game losing streak, were 22-of-43 from the floor with seven 3-pointers — four by Garber, two by Mitchell Miller and one by Smith. Fairfield made 1-of-4 free throws.

West Noble point-getters were Barth (8), Nolan Kelly (5), David Slone (5), Mason Taylor (3), Jordan Eash (2) and Trevor Steele (2).

The Ethan Marsh-coached Chargers were 9-of-33 from the floor with Slone canning the lone 3-pointer. The free throw count was 6-of-11.

There were many substitutions on both sides in the fourth quarter. Fairfield would up with 15 turnovers, but seven of the those were in the final period.

West Noble wound up with 20 turnovers — 11 in the first half.

The Falcons held a 27-20 rebounding edge.

"They killed us on the boards and were the tougher team the first time around," said Hinen.

Fairfield took a 45-15 advantage into the fourth quarter. The differential got as high as 31 — the last time at 51-20.

The victors were up 29-10 at halftime — the biggest first-half differential.

When West Noble called timeout at 3:28. the Chargers trailed 22-4.

The Falcons connected on 12-of-23 floor shots with five 3-pointers in the first half while the Chargers went 5-of-16 from none from behind the arc.

There were no foul shots in the first two quarters.

Fairfield held an 11-9 rebound edge at intermission.

West Noble committed 11 first-half turnovers and the Falcons four — none in the second quarter.

Fairfield led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Chargers committed eight turnovers in the opening period — four in the first three minutes.

NorthWood 46, Lakeland 43

"I can tell you that you can essentially throw away your first meeting and we knew that coming in," said Panthers coach Aaron Wolfe. "We had to play (the Lakers) on their home floor which was a great challenge."

NorthWood advanced by canning 16-of-34 floor shots with one 3-pointer by Owen Roeder.

The Panthers converted 13-of-22 foul shots.

NorthWood out-rebounded the Chris Keil-coached Lakers 28-19.

The Panthers made eight turnovers — five in the second half — and Lakeland finished with 12.

Getting on the score sheet for NorthWood were Tyler Raasch (18 points), Ethan Wolfe (12), Roeder (8), Seth Russell (6) and Keegin Stats (2).

Lakeland point-producers were Nate Keil (17), Keyan Arroyo (10), Kyle Hartsough (9), Anthony Khanchareun (5) and Keegan Merrifield (2).

The Lakers, which had won its last three games and the NECC title, made 15-of-39 floor shots with eight 3-pointers — four by Keil, two by Arroyo and one each by Hartsough and Khanchareun.

NorthWood led 41-37 with 2:57 to play then held on to win.

A 3-pointer by Khanchareun with 21 seconds to go cut the gap to 45-43.

After a pair of missed free throws by the Panthers, Stats stole the ball and hit 1-of-2 free throws.

"Keegin made a great play on the basketball," said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe. "That was a key steal."

A 3-point shot by Arroyo just before the buzzer that would have tied the game was off the mark.

"Lakeland played really hard," said Wolfe. "They hit timely shots. They were patient on offense. We were fortunate to come away with the win."

The Panthers took a 32-31 advantage into the fourth quarter and were ahead 22-19 at halftime.

There were four ties in the second quarter. The Panthers led by three points on two occasions and Lakeland one.

The Panthers shot 8-of-19 from the floor with one 3-pointer in the first half while the Lakers went 7-of-16 with three 3-pointers.

NorthWood made 5-of-10 free throws in the opening two periods while Lakeland canned 2-of-3.

The Panthers committed three first-half turnovers to the Lakers' seven.

The rebounding advantage went to NorthWood, 14-10.

Up 11-5 with a little over two minutes left in first quarter, Lakeland led 11-9 at the end of the opening period.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at matt.lucas@goshennews.com.