By MARK SALUKE
Two tired teams took the floor for Saturday night’s second consolation game of the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional at Memorial Gym. In the end, Taylor had a little more in the tank, outlasting Northwestern 49-38.
Nathan Gotshall led the way with 14 points and six rebounds as the Titans won two out of three games in the tourney, improving to 2-7 on the season.
“Any time you win two out of three in a week it’s a good thing,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “Getting those two is a good feeling to have. I feel for [Northwestern]. I think fatigue was part of it for them. I knew our kids were tired, and we didn’t play a triple-overtime game and had a little more time between games.”
Taylor dropped a quick semi-final opener to Kokomo Saturday morning before Northwestern and Western played 44 minutes with the Panthers prevailing 71-70.
“No excuses. We walked off the bus and kind of played like we were still on the bus,” Northwestern coach Jim Gish said. “The fact of the matter is you’ve got to play with heart, and you’ve got to play hard, and we came out and looked like we felt sorry for ourselves. We were just so complacent. I wouldn’t even call it fatigue. We didn’t move the basketball, we didn’t close out, we didn’t do anything fundamental. If you can’t do those things, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired or not tired. We didn’t do what we needed to do, plain and simple.”
The Tigers (5-3) stumbled out of the gate, committing six miscues over the first eight minutes and 15 in the first half compared to six for the Titans as Taylor led by five at the first stop (13-8) and maintained a three-point edge (25-22) at intermission.
For the game, Northwestern turned the ball over 21 times, but that stat may have been overshadowed by the Tigers shooting woes. Following a 9-of-15 first-half shooting performance from the field, Northwestern shot 3 of 18 (17 percent) in the second half, including 1 of 11 in the third quarter as Taylor’s lead grew to double-digits, 37-27, heading into the final frame.
“It just comes back to ball movement,” Gish said. “We were settling for anything and weren’t moving the basketball. Just no movement offensively, and that leads to bad shots. I don’t think we were forced into them, we just took bad shots.”
Taylor took advantage of the cold-shoooting Tigers to build its first double-digit lead, 35-25, midway through the third quarter on Logan Barnes 3-pointer. The Titans lead remained in double digits for most of the fourth quarter, swelling to as many as 14 on three occasions.
Chase Johnson buckets trimmed the Titan lead to nine on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers could get no closer.
“I look up and they’ve got it down to nine again and I’m thinking ‘here we go’,” Lewman said. “They find ways to stay in basketball games. They are a good team, and we found ways to bounce back and play a solid game.”
Johnson finished with 11 points and five rebounds to pace Northwestern. Trenton Brazel chipped in 8 for the Tigers. Brazel, who entered the tourney averaging 23.8 points per game, was limited to a 2-of-8 night from the field with his first points coming on back-to-back treys to close out the first half.
“I didn’t realize those two 3’s were the only points he had in the first half,” Lewman said. “We rotated guys on him, Gotshall for a while, Challen [Hodson] some. The whole idea was to hopefully get him more tired than he may have already been. Being able to keep him in a situation where we limit his opportunities to score is a big part of being able to be competitive against Northwestern.”