MONTICELLO — 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 Wednesday night.
“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.
Northwestern (10-10) advances to face rival Western (14-6) in a semifinal game Friday night. The Panthers won both of the teams’ regular-season meetings.
“It will take a strong effort from us Friday night, but we’re really happy with the effort we just got from the kids so we’re looking forward to the fact we get to play another night,” Gish said.
Peru guard Tyler Murphy opened the second half with a 3-pointer to put the Bengal Tigers up 25-14 — the biggest lead of the game by either team. Northwestern controlled the rest of the third quarter, outscoring Peru 24-12 the rest of the way to grab 38-37 advantage. Graham Ortmann beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to give the Howard County Tigers their first lead of the game.