A couple key runs sparked Northmor to a 56-34 win at Cardington in a key early-season KMAC game.
After the first 4:30 of the game were played fairly evenly, with the Golden Knights only holding an 8-6 lead, they would end the period with eight straight points, as Hunter Mariotti and Blake Miller tallied four each.
The team would then go on to control the action in the second quarter to widen that advantage. After Cardington’s Nate Hickman connected from the field to open the period, Northmor got five straight points by Miller to increase his team’s lead to a 21-8 score.
Northmor had a size advantage inside in the game and took advantage of it, which made their coach, Zach Ruth, happy.
“Our system, in the last five or six years, we’ve had some size,” he said. “We start on the inside and work our way out. I told the boys this is our first game we did not hit a three-pointer in years.”
In the second, every time Cardington got on the scoreboard, Northmor would respond to widen their lead. A bucket by Danny Vaught was countered by shots from Preston Harbolt and Mariotti. Avery Harper then scored for Cardington, but Northmor ended the half with a free throw from Alex Tuttle and baskets from Max Lower and Mariotti.
“They’re very, very long,” said Pirate coach Nick Withrow of Northmor’s size. “We knew that’d give us fits. We allowed them to dictate the game with their size. They’re well-coached and know what it takes to win. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.”
Trailing 30-12 at the intermission, Cardington was able to battle their way back into the game over the first five minutes of the third quarter. A three-pointer by Cayman Spires and a basket from Harper, as well as two free throws from Trey Brininger, trimmed seven points off their deficit and a three-pointer by Harper assisted the team in getting within a 34-25 score.
However, the final three minutes of the period was all Northmor. Miller hit a basket and free throw and Mariotti followed with a pair of foul shots. Miller and Lower then finished the period with back-to-back shots, boosting the lead back up to 18 at 43-25.
“Give them credit — they made our mistakes hurt,” said Withrow. “We have to be better at not allowing our mistakes to turn into runs. When you piece away a deficit like that, you can’t allow them to get it back.”
Ruth wasn’t surprised that Cardington made a run, but he was pleased at how well his team was able to respond to it.
“Coach Withrow’s got them playing hard,” he said. “We told them at halftime, it’s uncharted territory for them to only have 12 points. They started off with a 7-0 run and got it to nine. What I liked most is I didn’t have to call a time out to get them settled in.”
Northmor wouldn’t allow another Pirate run in the fourth quarter. After Brininger opened the period with a basket, Northmor got a free throw from Lower and two points by Mariotti to boost their advantage to a 46-27 score and never led by fewer than 17 the rest of the way.
Miller tallied 24 points to lead all scorers, while Mariotti also was in double figures with 16 and Lower finished with nine. Cardington got 11 from Harper and eight by Brininger in suffering their first league loss.
Withrow felt the big thing his team needs to take away from the loss is to get back to doing what they need to do in order to get back on the winning track.
“We’ve got to figure out who we are and what our priorities are,” he said. “We are a good team and one loss isn’t going to end it.”
As for the Golden Knights, Ruth said that after a season-opening loss to Centerburg, the only team still perfect in league play, his team has worked to keep in the mix.
“We got some momentum at Mount Gilead a week ago and then against Pleasant,” he said. “And now Cardington, who was the hottest team in the league. We hang our hat on defense and held them to 34.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS