A great defensive performance by the Northmor boys’ basketball team removed much of the suspense from a Wednesday night KMAC battle with Highland.
The game, hosted by the Knights, featured two teams that entered the night with identical 6-0 marks in league play. Through five minutes of often-sloppy play, the teams seemed evenly matched, but Northmor finished the quarter on a 12-2 run and didn’t let up over the next two periods of what would become a decisive 70-43 win.
“We’ve been clicking pretty good the last couple games,” said Knight coach Zach Ruth. “We got out to a sluggish start and it seemed to be 2-2 for a while, so I called a 30-second time out and got into them a little bit. They came out and responded like a senior-laden team should do.”
With the score tied at four with three minutes left in the first quarter, Northmor started to take over the game, scoring 12 straight points with Kyle Kegley tallying six of that total. Highland coach Chris Powell noted that not only were the Knights making shots, but his team was plagued by misses in the early going that could have changed the tone of the game.
“We missed a couple tough lay-ups,” he said. “Those missed lay-ups haunted us. We could have gotten the lead early and set the tone that way.”
While Highland did end the first quarter with a basket by Cody Holtrey, they were unable to take any momentum into the second period. Northmor opened the quarter with a basket and free throw from Kegley and then Demetrius Johnson added a basket. Highland would go on a 6-2 run on shots from Mack Anglin, Chris Branham and Kaleb Phillips to get within a 23-12 score, but the Knights finished the period strongly.
Johnson would score six points in the final 2:30 of the half and, to make matters worse for the Scots, Phillips got banged up on a play in the waning seconds of the period and would not return to the game. Powell simply felt that, as the game went on, Northmor used their size to its full advantage to dominate the game inside the paint.
“They’re long and they’re big,” he said. “They’re every nice they say they are and they play with good intensity. They made the decision to just get to the rum and they did a good job.”
The third quarter began with Northmor going on a 9-2 run, with Blake Miller contributing four points, to take a 40-14 lead. Ruth said that his team has been doing a great job focusing on defense for the second straight year.
“Our defense last year set the school record with 47 points a game defensively and we’re on pace to beat that,” he said. “And the big thing is that our defense creates our offense.”
The Knights continued to add to their lead, getting it as high as 34 points when Brock Pletcher scored on a dunk via an assist from Johnson at the 1:57 mark of the third. Their advantage would stay around 30 points for the rest of the game, as it took a 6-0 Scot run over the final three minutes to get the final score down to a 27-point margin.
With a large crowd in the Knight gym for the game, Ruth felt it was a big-game atmosphere.
“You look at the crowd,” he said. “Hats off to the Highland people and a special shout-out to the Northmor people. They filled this gym.”
Highland got 10 points from Branham, while Anglin added nine. Powell said after the game that all his team can do is rebound and get ready for the second time through the other seven KMAC teams.
“We’ve got a good home stretch coming up,” he said. “We start the second half of the league with Danville. We’ll regroup and go from there.”
For Northmor, Kegley had 20 points and 13 rebounds and had already recorded a double-double by halftime. Also, Johnson finished with 18 and both Miller and Pletcher scored 12. Ruth was pleased with his team’s balanced scoring, noting that his veteran squad has blossomed into an unselfish group.
“We’ve been sharing the ball well,” he said, adding that they’ve won 20 of their past 21 games dating back to the 2016-17 season. “You go in our locker room and there are no stats posted. Our kids don’t care about any stat other than the win-loss stat.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS