By BRYAN GASKINS
---- — Northwestern’s boys basketball team entered its game against North Miami on Wednesday in need of a spark after losing four of its five previous games.
The Tigers found it with an early flurry keyed by defensive pressure.
The Tigers used a 13-0 run to build a 23-6 lead three minutes into the second quarter. They went on for a 63-49 victory over the visiting Warriors.
Northwestern coach Jim Gish pointed to his team’s depth as a difference in the game.
“We were able to press with 13 different guys and I think that wore on them as the game went on,” Gish said. “It gave us some transition points and it got us to the free throw line. Even though we didn’t hit as many as we should have, it did put us at the free throw line, and in the right position offensively.”
Northwestern (8-8) forced North Miami into 29 turnovers — 16 in the first half. The active defense made up for an inconsistent offense. The Tigers finished 23 of 55 from the field and 13 of 22 from the free throw line and they had 15 turnovers.
“It was one of those situations where we didn’t play as crisp as we needed to,” Gish said, noting playing for the second straight night led to some tired legs. “I thought we played hard, we just weren’t as crisp in terms of getting into passing lanes and taking care of the basketball. We have to take care of the basketball to win the big games.”
The Tigers scored 14 points off turnovers in building a 33-16 halftime lead. They also attacked the offensive glass, leading to 11 second-chance points.
Their lead peaked at 22 on a pair of occasions in the third quarter (43-21 and 45-23). They led 48-30 at the end of the quarter.
Graham Ortmann scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers put the game away. He finished with a game-high 18 points. He made 4 of 10 attempts from 3-point range.
Logan Galbraith added 11 points for the Tigers, Keagan Downey had nine points and Jacob Wagner had seven.
Riley Hudson offered a spark off the bench with six points and a team-high five rebounds. Hudson had four offensive rebounds.
“Riley is a good athlete who works hard,” Gish said. “He understands the press well so he can really give us a nice lift defensively. With his length and athleticism, he gives the opposition problems.”
Alex Borse led the Warriors (3-13) with 11 points and five boards.
Northwestern has three regular-season games remaining. The Tigers host Eastern on Friday, visit Oak Hill on Tuesday and then host Mississinewa on Wednesday.
Northwestern had a pair of three-game winning streaks earlier in the season. Gish hopes Wednesday’s win sparks another happy streak with sectional play looming.
“We feel like it’s important for us to continue to build on the momentum we had, show some good things offensively in terms of moving the basketball, and then let our defensive pressure be applied to the opposition,” Gish said.