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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: NorthWood stays unbeaten in 59-57 thriller over Northridge

Jan. 11—NAPPANEE — Down to the final second, an intentional miss at the free-throw line caused a questionable final series Thursday night at NorthWood High School, resulting in a 59-57 win for the homestanding Panthers over the visiting Northridge Raiders.

"Those are the kind of games that it's a shame someone has to lose, but I think we knew it was a game where we knew we could improve against a quality opponent and I'm very proud of our effort," NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe said.

The Raiders had a few chances down the stretch. Down 59-56 with 17 seconds left, Northridge was repeatedly fouled as the Panthers had some to give in the final minute.

Eventually, NorthWood made the decision to not leave it up to the defense of the 3-point line, fouling Northridge's Hayden Johnson and sending him to the line for two shots.

Johnson made the first and with three seconds remaining, went for the intentional miss and the rebound. Johnson's chest pass missed the rim though, giving the ball to NorthWood under the hoop. An inbound pass was ruled to be deflected by a Raider defender with just 1.9 second left on the clock on the Raider sideline.

A argument on the call from the Northridge sideline and fans in attendance did nothing to overrule the verdict, and NorthWood's second chance at the inbound pass was successful, helping the Panthers to their fifth-consecutive win and a 3-0 start in conference play.

"We put ourselves in a bad situation," a somber Scott Radeker said afterwards on the last seconds of the game.

NorthWood (9-3, 3-0 NLC) dissected the Northridge (10-3, 1-2 NLC) defense with ease at times, scoring well over the 47 points per game averaged entering Thursday nights game.

"I think our guys did a better job of taking care of the basketball; understanding our strengths has helped," Wolfe said. "I think they did a nice job of taking what the defense gave them tonight which opened up some opportunities."

The Panthers shot a blistering 23-of-37 shots from the floor, knocking down 5-of-8 shots from behind the arc and 8-of-12 from the line. Tyler Raasch was the go-to man, scoring 19 points (13 in the second half) and blocking five shots at the game's beginning and down the stretch.

"I think if you look at both teams, both probably wish they had some plays they could get back," Wolfe said. "It's a classic NLC basketball game."

Northridge turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter but stayed close, taking an 18-13 deficit into the second quarter. There, Northridge cleaned it up on both ends and skated out to a 8-2 run to end the half — punctuated by a dunk by Mason Bales — to take a 27-24 hole into the locker room.

"Early in the game we weren't executing what we worked on," Northridge's coach Radeker said. "We did better attacking the basket more and once we started attacking the paint with the defense moving off ball penetration."

For the game, the Raiders shot 20-of-39 from the floor and 9-of-20 from three. They were also 8-of-13 from the charity stripe. Bales scored a game-high 23 points.

The Raiders also lost for their second-straight game, dropping a second-chance buzzer-beater to Warsaw at home last week.

"We didn't execute the game plan all the time," Radeker said before placing blame on himself. "I gotta do better. We have to figure out a way to get these guys to understand what it is we need to do. We did battle [and] gave ourselves a chance but we gotta get back to the drawing board and figure things out. It doesn't get any easier from here.

NorthWood was joined in scoring by Owen Roeder (13 points), Ethan Wolfe (10), Keegin Stats (10), Mason Pearson (3), Grant Miller (3) and Seth Russel (1).

The visiting Raiders joined Bales in the scoring column with Johnson (13 points), Brady Scholl (11), Gideon Campbell (5) and Dylan Springer (5).

Thursday's game was originally scheduled for Friday, but was moved up with a snow system expected to hit the area beginning Friday. It was one of just several schools to make similar adjustments.

Northridge hosts Penn this upcoming Tuesday in a nonconference bout between two Elkhart sectional teams. NorthWood stays home and welcomes in South Bend St. Joseph Tuesday. Both the Raiders and Panthers will play three-consecutive NLC teams after Tuesday's nonconference matchups.

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL

Northridge — 13 11 11 22 — 57

NorthWood — 18 9 17 15 — 59

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