Northmor’s Bryson Keirns goes up for a basket against the Elgin defense on Friday.

Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

A strong performance by Northmor led them to a win at home in their first boys’ basketball game of the season by a 69-51 win over visiting Elgin.

While the two teams were tied at 17 after the opening period, Northmor took a 23-13 edge in the second quarter to open up a lead they would not surrender the rest of the way.

Golden Knight head coach Blade Tackett noted that he was proud of his team for battling through adversity and injuries.

“I’m just so proud of our guys,” he said. “We expected to play nine guys and we had the opportunity to play nine guys. Everyone played their role to a T and they took pride in it. I’m just so proud of them because we’ve had a lot of setbacks. We’ve had kids injured. It’s been challenging at practice. We’ve lost some kids and had to make adjustments. This group has been extremely resilient and staying positive, believing we still have a talented group of kids that can compete and win games. As long as we prepare, execute and play hard, we’re going to have the chance to win games.”

Northmor got out to a fast start against the Comets, taking an early 10-2 lead behind four points by Hunter Fulk and baskets from Bryson Keirns, Grant Bentley and Drew Hammond. Elgin would battle back throughout the rest of the period, though, getting hot from three-point range. The Comets hit four times from long range in the final five minutes of the quarter to temporarily take a lead before a Keirns bucket tied the game at 17.

Another Elgin three helped them jump out to a 22-18 lead early in the second quarter, but Northmor then went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game. Bentley hit two three-pointers during that stretch and Hammond added five points as their team opened up a 31-22 lead.

Elgin would battle back to wishing a 35-30 margin, but a basket by Bentley and three straight points by Fulk to end the half allowed the Golden Knights to go to the locker room holding a 40-30 advantage.

Tackett noted that Elgin did a great job of converting their three-point attempts, which kept them in the game. In the first half, the Comets drained six shots from deep and they had nine overall three-pointers.

“Credit to them,” said the coach. “Our plan was to force them to shoot. We didn’t want #12 (Stephen Castillo) to shoot to be honest and he got loose early. We always had it as a plan — if this kid gets hot, face guard him. The thing about our guys that’s just fun is we probably had six guys face guard him at different times and all of our guys have the ability to do that. I think we were able to slow him down in the second half. Credit to their other guys who hit big shots in big moments.

Castillo scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, but was held to a pair of free throws early in the third quarter as his team cut the Northmor lead to a 44-39 margin.

However, the Golden Knights would finish the period strongly, going on an 11-5 run sparked by four points from Keirns and three from Bentley.

Leading 55-44, Northmor saw Nate Freshour connect for five quick points to make it a 57-49 game, but Elgin wouldn’t get any closer. Keirns hit for there points and both Bentley and Fulk added baskets to boost the lead to a 15-point margin in a game the home team would win by 18.

Bentley tallied a game-high 28 points for Northmor, while Keirns added 16, Hammond scored 11 and Fulk had nine. Tackett noted that Keirns gave his team strong play, both offensively and defensively, as a starter after coming off the bench last year.

“That kid’s been waiting on that,” he said. “He’s very passionate about basketball. Last year, he battled injuries early on and had a pretty primary role in the middle of the season and then we got Max (Lower) back and he still had a major role on the team. I think he’s always wanted this opportunity since he’s been a freshman and sophomore when he was a really great JV player. He was patient. Last year I know was frustrating for him, but he was a great teammate and great player.”

Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS