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Norse use big run to thwart Warriors

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

With two teams looking to find a way out of the cellar of the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) standings, Northfield and North Miami’s boys’ basketball teams met in Wabash County on Wednesday night.

After little separation through the opening quarter-and-a-half, Northfield used a 16-0 run across the middle two periods to establish an insurmountable lead that saw them earn a 60-34 win.

“It was a good win,” Northfield head coach Patrick Hopkins said. “We had a couple guys step up. Kyle Reed played well like normal. Then Jared Peas, I would assume, with his first double-double. Ten points, 10 rebounds is what we have. It’s a great team win. We played well. It was fun to watch.”

After a run of five unanswered by North Miami pulled the visitors to within eight midway through the second quarter, Northfield scored the final four points of the quarter.

Kyle Reed would convert a layup before being fouled as time expired in the half. The senior forward would convert both free throws, sending the Norse into the locker room up 28-16.

The hosts would start the second half like they finished the first, scoring the opening nine points of the frame within the first two minutes, forcing a North Miami timeout.

Joe Halderman capped off the run out of the timeout with a three-pointer, putting Northfield ahead 40-16.

North Miami’s first bucket of the half came from Tristan Working just over three minutes into the period, but Northfield did not slow down.

Baskets from Nate Drancik and Clayton Tomlinson and free throws from the latter comprised of the final six points of the quarter as Northfield’s lead reached 29 points heading into the fourth.

The Norse would eventually grow the lead to 34 points at 60-26 with a 9-2 run early in the fourth before the Warrior reserves cut into the final deficit.

For North Miami head coach Cliff Hawkins, though, the turning point was the 16-0 run in the middle periods.

“Well, you know, it didn’t help any to make the foul right here at the end of the first half,” he said. “We had it still at ten and we’re shooting nothing at the time hardly. I think the biggest turning point was the third quarter, the initial possessions and them going 9-0 on us real quick. That definitely was a turning point.

“But I liked our kids’ effort early. I thought the first half we played extremely hard and together. I thought the second half we struggled a little bit with those things, which is very natural to happen to a team when they are struggling. I thought defensively we worked extremely hard early, but second half we just didn’t have enough to get it done.”

For Hopkins, his side’s offensive attack was the difference maker during that run.

“When we find the kill zones in the zone – we call it a kill zone because that’s where you kill the zone – when we find those zones and we take care of the ball and we move the ball like we did tonight, it works,” Hopkins said. “We get it in the middle, you kick it opposite, you hit down low, you flash, when we (have) ball movement and player movement, it really works for us. We ended taking care of the ball and getting layups and that really opened things up for us.”

Reed led the Norse with 20 points and eight rebounds. The game was Reed’s fourth 20-point game of the season while he’s grabbed at least six rebounds in every game this season.

“He’s a special player,” Hopkins said. “He’s been playing a lot of minutes the last three years. We kind of go as he goes. If he has a good attitude, if he’s playing hard, it’s fun to watch. He’s been great for us offensively, a great player for us defensively. If he continues to work hard, these next six games are going to be fun to watch him.”

Jared Peas finished with his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists.

Halderman added 10 points, Drancik eight, and Tomlinson and Logan Peas chipped in four each.

Working led North Miami with 10 points and Patrick Masters added eight. Nate Hill added six and Malachi Sanderson five.

For North Miami, offensive inconsistencies have come with a team experimenting with new lineups and rotations.

“We’re playing a lot of people right now,” Hawkins said. “When you’re shooting 21 percent, I’m sure it looks uncohesive. But if you would say this, if you told me we had 12 offensive rebounds and 11 turnovers only, you would think the game would be a better game.

“Whether it’s cohesive or not, I thought the first few minutes, I thought we were trusting one another, but we couldn’t get anything to go down. I thought in the fourth quarter, there was a group that moved the ball a little bit. I think anytime you get to struggling, then you just kind of begin to try to fix it with a bigger hammer and we have some guys that have big hammers and they want to fix it, but they have to learn to fix it together.”

North Miami falls to 3-14 with the loss, their fourth-straight loss after a win over South Bend Career Academy. The Warriors are winless in TRC play.

Northfield, meanwhile, improves to 5-11 overall and 2-5 in conference with two wins in their last three games. The Norse return to the court this weekend for a pair of road games at Bluffton and Eastbrook on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“Both are very improved teams,” Hopkins said of the weekend’s opponents. “It’ll be tough. We’re going to come in tomorrow, get a lot of shots up, watch some film, grow personally…and then hopefully we play hard like we did tonight the next two games. I think if we play hard and take care of the ball, we have a chance to win both of those games this weekend.”