After winning their first two tournament games thanks to strong fourth quarter runs, Northmor couldn’t quite make it three in a row against Columbus Academy in their district semifinal match-up at Westerville Central on Tuesday.
The Knights led 24-23 at the half against the Vikings, but surrendered an 11-2 run to open the third quarter and wound up on the short end of a 59-50 decision.
“Like I told them, all good books, movies and lives come to an end, just like good seasons come to an end,” said Northmor coach Zach Ruth. “Our season’s over, but we left a legacy to be remembered forever.”
That legacy includes snaring the team’s first league title and setting a record nine-game winning streak, as well as tying the record of 19 wins in a season.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t break the record by picking up their 20th win, although the fourth-seeded Knights gave the second-seeded Vikings all they could handle in the first half.
Two baskets each by Kyle Kegley and Brock Pletcher helped stake Northmor to an early 10-4 lead, but Academy battled back to take a 13-10 lead after the opening period. Four quick points by Tyler Kegley put Northmor back in the lead, though, and neither team could take an advantage for most of the period.
The two teams traded the lead back and forth until Northmor got back-to-back baskets from Tyler Kegley and Pletcher to turn a 21-20 deficit into a three-point advantage. The Vikings finished the half with a basket by Ryan Alexander to close within one at the break.
Things got away from Northmor in the third quarter, as Ruth noted he felt his players got away from what had been working offensively and started trying to force things from long range. Academy got the first two baskets of the period and, after Demetrius Johnson responded with a bucket to make it 27-26 in favor of the Vikings, added four more successful shots to jump in front by nine.
Pletcher connected on back-to-back threes to make it a 35-32 game, but Academy was able to score late in the period to take a five-point advantage into the final frame.
The Vikings opened up another nine-point lead at 45-36 in the opening two minutes of the quarter, but Northmor rallied once more. Tyler Kegley hit two free throws and both Johnson and Kyle Kegley hit baskets to trim the deficit to three points.
However, Northmor missed a pair of free throws that could have made it a one-point game and the Vikings quickly got a three-pointer by Chris Boyle to move in front by six points. Ruth noted that rebounding and free throws hurt his team in the game.
“What hurts me is they kicked our butt rebounding, which doesn’t happen to us, and we were 2-of-9 at the foul line,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of ‘adversity moments’ in games. They did a heck of a job fighting back.”
After that, Northmor would not get closer than a five-point margin in the game’s final moments, as Academy was able to move on to Friday night’s district finals.
Despite the loss, which ends his team’s season at 19-6, Ruth found a lot of positives to mention, including a bright future with a lot of juniors returning next year, as well as a large group of fans excited about the team’s fortunes.
“The community is just phenomenal,” he said. “You saw the crowd here — that’s just incredible. I hope the underclassmen got the taste in their mouth. Personally, I want to play in the Schottenstein Center next year.”
Pletcher finished with a game-high 20 points for Northmor, while Tyler Kegley added 10 and Kyle Kegley scored eight.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS