PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: NorthWood's shot falls short in 45-43 semistate loss to Bremen

Feb. 17—HUNTINGTON — The Black Swish's postseason run came to a standstill Saturday afternoon, chipping away at a third-quarter double-digit deficit before losing 45-43 to Bremen at the IHSAA 3A Huntington North semistate semifinals.

"We knew coming in it would be a tough battle, Bremen's been playing very well," NorthWood head coach Taylor Burkhart said afterwards. "At the beginning of the game they were hitting shots and I think we probably had one of the worst halves we've had in a while. We were getting our shots and opportunities at the basket, it just would not go in. It affected our defense a little bit."

Swarming the Panthers' 6-foot-2 junior forward Claire Payne, the Lions dared NorthWood to knock down shots from the outside and for three quarters had benefitted from the gameplan. The Black Swish shot just 4-of-30 from distance, amplified by fourth-quarter heaves to attempt at the comeback.

And yet, the Panthers almost did it.

Down 26-15 with six minutes to play in the third quarter, NorthWood began to chip away.

Junior Haylee Heflin drained the team's first 3-pointer of the night to get back to a single-digit hole after taking a 21-15 deficit into the locker room. A pair of free throws from Payne kept the Panthers within six, trailing 28-22 as the fourth quarter began.

A layup by Payne was followed by freshman guard Kinzee Hartman and all of a sudden, NorthWood had shot themselves within two at 31-29. Like a hammer to a nail, Bremen fired back in a painful way for Black Swish fans. Emma Kincaid drilled the 3-pointer on the other end and the Lions were back up five.

Megan Yoder and Hartman responded with a pair of 3's, and Bremen began to miss at the free throw line. Up 43-40, the Lions turned the ball over to which ended with Payne splitting her pair at the line with NorthWood trailing 43-41 with under ten seconds to play.

Bremen standout Eliana Grubbs calmly closed out the win on the other end, sinking two free throws and using the clock to run out a 45-43 win to advance to the semistate championship game against Norwell.

"We talked at halftime that we needed to get more downhill and get to the free throw line and I feel like we started doing a better job attacking," Burkhart said. "The first half of the game I feel like we were falling away from the basket and officials are not going to call that. I think we did a much better job of that in the second half."

"As soon as our first shot went in in the second half, I think it completely switched and [gave us] some more energy there," Burkhart added about his team's defense.

NorthWood was led by Payne, who scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. She was followed by Yoder (11 — nine in the fourth quarter), Heflin (7), Branham (7), Hartman (6) and Callie Johnson (1).

The Panthers shot just 13-of-61 for the game, including a 13-of-18 mark from behind the line.

Bremen was led by Kincaid (14 points), Kila Foster (13), Grubbs (12), Mikayla Shively (3) and Naomi Moyer (3). The Lions shot 14-of-36 from the floor including a 6-of-17 mark from behind the arc. Bremen was 11-of-17 from the charity stripe.

"She's a go-to person most definitely," Burkhart said about how Bremen colassped on Payne throughout the game. "We had an idea they were probably going to collapse. I think we did a good job of getting it inside and back outside, they just wouldn't fall. If one or two of those fall in the first half it might have given us some more confidence."

NorthWood knocked off West Noble and defending 3A state champs Fairfield in the section round before winning the one-game regional against New Prairie. The Panthers lose just three seniors in Joselyn Edwards, Callie Johnson and Jenna Householter. Johnson was the lone fourth-year player to step on the court Saturday with Edwards injured.

Burkhart, in his second year coaching the Panthers, see's the growth the program has already shown with his short time there.

"Year two with our players getting our process started and now everyone can see what we want to do as coaches and the program," Burkhart said.


Bremen — 14; 7; 7; 17 — 45

NorthWood — 10; 5; 7; 21 — 43

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at