By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — 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.
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.
Ortmann scored on a backdoor layup and free throw at 3:09 and after Northwestern forced Peru into a 10-second violation, Logan Galbraith scored a putback to knot the score at 52-all at 2:40. Peru’s Eddie Childers scored on a fastbreak to put Peru up 54-52, but Ortmann followed with a 3-pointer to put Northwestern up 55-54 — and start an 8-0 run that left Northwestern with a 60-54 lead at :50.2.
Northwestern sealed the win with 6 of 6 free throw shooting in the final :38.
Galbraith helped key the Tigers’ decisive run. After Ortmann’s go-ahead 3-pointer, Galbraith took a charge.
“Logan had two or three charges taken in the game,” Gish raved. “What a great effort by a senior. I really commend him for doing that.”
Ortmann scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. He finished 4 of 8 from 3-land. Jacob Wagner finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists, Galbraith had 10 points and Blaine Brutus had nine points and four assists. Wagner and Brutus were big in the third quarter, scoring seven points apiece as Northwestern clawed back into the game.
Northwestern finished 18 of 25 from the charity stripe. Ortmann and Wagner both went 6 of 7.
Peru (7-14) was led by 6-foot-11 center Seth Adelsperger, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Murphy and Richardson added 13 points apiece and Austin Finicle had 10.
“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.
“That was as close we’ve played to a full four-quarter game all season. It was good to see, win or lose, that we went out with our best effort.”