Northwestern boys basketball coach Jim Gish had a simple message for his players after the Purple Tigers staggered through the first half and found itself trailing Peru 22-14 in a Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional game last week.
“The halftime speech basically consisted of, ‘You have 16 minutes that will either end your season or you’ll get to play at least one more night and it’s up to you how you react,’” Gish said.
The Purple Tigers responded in a big way. They used a 52-point explosion in the second half to beat the Bengal Tigers 66-62.
“I really thought the kids came out in the second half and did a nice job of dialing up the pressure and doing some things that they needed to do for us to have success,” Gish said. “I think you saw a different team in the second half.”
No doubt about that. Consider: In the first half, Northwestern was 6 of 19 from the field and it committed a whopping 10 turnovers. In the second half, Gish’s squad was 15 of 24 from the field with just four turnovers.
Northwestern’s full-court pressure was another key. The Bengal Tigers finished with 19 turnovers.
“Give [Gish] and his kids credit, they came out and really gave us problems with their pressure full court,” Peru coach Jim Metcalfe said. “Some of that is we made some poor decisions with the basketball, but a lot of it was the pressure they were putting on us. I hate it for my kids because they played their hearts out. Northwestern just made a few more plays down the stretch."
Northwestern outscored Peru 24-15 in the third quarter to erase Peru's halftime advantage.
The teams traded the lead three times in the opening minute of the fourth quarter before Peru seemed to regain control. The Bengals held three different five-point leads (46-41, 48-43 and 52-47) before the Purple Tigers surged into the lead.