BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — When trying to beat Northwestern’s boys basketball team, here’s what can’t happen: Purple Tiger wing shooter Graham Ortmann can’t be given space and a clean look at the basket outside the arc.
Ortmann showed himself to be lethal again from 3-point land Friday night, leading Northwestern to a 57-51 road victory over Taylor. Ortmann connected on 7 of 11 triples, including two in the fourth quarter. The first pulled Northwestern a point back at 51-50.
Taylor turned the ball over on its next possession and Ortmann was set up by teammates for another long ball with 2:10 left.
That gave Northwestern a 53-51 lead with 2:10 left. Taylor wasn’t able to score again and the Tigers went on to finish the game on a 10-0 run for their first victory of the season.
“The guys have been very resilient about what they want to get done. It was nice to see us get over the hump,” NW coach Jim Gish said.
The Tigers (1-3, 1-1 MIC) led by 13 points at halftime, 37-24, but lost it all and Taylor surged ahead in the fourth before the final run tipped the game Northwestern’s way.
“Third quarter we lost our way a little bit, but fourth quarter, all of the sudden we see a triple for [Ortmann], we see a vertical stagger [screen] for him where he can come up and they get him open shots,” Gish said. “[When] Graham gets his feet set, I’m thinking about what defense I want to call out.”
Ortmann finished with a game- and career-high 27 points. He hit 8 of 13 shots overall, including four straight treys in the first quarter. Ortmann has hit 20 of 31 shots from 3-land to start the season — none bigger than the two with less than 3 minutes to play in the fourth quarter Friday.
“We were in a crucial moment to have a solid possession [while leading], we committed a turnover at that point in time, and at that moment Graham went to work,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “He caught it right on the top of the key and put it in the bottom of the net two times, had an old-style 3-point play. He made plays, and his teammates helped him get it taken care of.”
Northwestern got nine points from guard Blaine Brutus, all on first-half treys, eight from point guard Jacob Wagner, and six from post battler Tyler Hudson. Keagan Downey had just four points, and none after the first quarter, but the Tiger center came up with big plays in the fourth quarter.
With Northwestern holding a 53-51 lead, Downey blocked a shot in the paint and came down with the rebound with 1:45 to play. Northwestern went to its delay game after that and forced Taylor to foul. Wagner hit one freebie, Taylor’s KeShawn Stabler missed a 3-pointer, and Downey grabbed his final rebound of the game. Ortmann hit two more free throws after that to put the game out of reach with :36 left.
“[Downey] and Graham and Logan Galbraith are really our only kids who have experience at the varsity level, and I thought that experience really showed for Keagan down the stretch, knowing what it would take to put our team in position to win,” Gish said.
Taylor held Northwestern to just three points in the third quarter to go into the fourth trailing 40-34. Dairian Stone and Stabler hit treys to cut the lead to two at 42-40 and shortly thereafter Stabler gave Taylor its first lead since the first quarter with a 3-ball from the left side for a 45-43 lead.
“I love the fact that my kids are so willing to just go to work,” Lewman said. “It’s one of those things where if we could have caught them in the third quarter instead of the fourth, we could have made another charge at them.”
Wheeler led Taylor (1-2, 0-1 MIC) with 11 points, Latrell Mitchell had 10, Stapler nine, Stone seven, and Jarrad Moore and Cole Schroeder six each.