By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
Northwestern’s boys basketball team went into the Christmas break with a bad taste in its mouth following a pair of losses in the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional on Dec. 22.
The Purple Tigers finally returned to action on Tuesday — but the bad taste remained following a 67-52 loss to visiting Frankfort.
Now, Northwestern (4-5) faces another extended layoff before playing four games in nine days starting with a visit to Cass on Friday, Jan. 18.
“We’re 0-3 in our last three games. That makes it pretty tough for us going into next Friday night,” Northwestern coach Jim Gish said. “As a coach at this time of the season, you’d like to bounce back and play again. I feel like we’ve repped about all we can rep. We’re going to hit on some things we need to improve on, but we need to play some games.
“The NBA schedule is coming soon enough,” Gish added.
Frankfort (7-3) led wire to wire. The Hot Dogs put the Tigers in an early hole and cold shooting kept the Tigers in the hole. Northwestern finished 20 of 47 from the field and 10 of 20 from the free throw line. Frankfort was 22 of 46 from the field and 19 of 25 from the line.
Gish found the Tigers’ free throw woes particularly disappointing.
“That just can’t happen,” he said.
The Hot Dogs held a 9-5 advantage midway through the opening quarter, then reeled off a 10-2 run to finish the quarter with a 19-7 lead.
The Tigers scored the first six points of the second quarter to draw within 19-13 — but the Hot Dogs outscored the Tigers 12-2 over the final 5:30 of the half to build a commanding 31-15 lead.
Frankfort played the second quarter with starting guard Isaac Rudd and four backups. Rudd hit two 3-pointers for six points and also had four rebounds and three assists.
“[Rudd] is so athletic, he can do so many different things, and he is strong, a good leaper, handles the ball well, sees the floor well,” Frankfort coach Tom Weeks said. “And then we had some great role players in there who moved with him and understood what he was doing and really made it good for us.”
The Hot Dogs scored the first six points of the third quarter to build a 37-15 lead. The Tigers followed with a 10-0 run to draw within 12 — and the Tigers had a pair of chances to draw closer after Frankfort’s Jacob Barnes was whistled for a technical foul. But, Graham Ortmann missed both free throws and then the Tigers came up empty on the ensuing possession after Chase Johnson missed a dunk.
The Hot Dogs led 45-29 at the end of the third quarter. They led by as many as 20 in the final quarter, and the Tigers came no closer than 14.
“We played with intensity,” Weeks said. “I thought where we did our best job was on the defensive rebounds. We had them for just three [offensive rebounds] all night. So, when you’re able to limit them to one shot, you have a pretty good chance of winning and I thought we did that [Tuesday].”
Frankfort cleaned up the glass as Northwestern missed 27 shots, which led to a 37-14 rebounding advantage. Christian Smith had 11 rebounds, Rudd had 10 and Nathaniel Wissman had eight.
Smith and Brody Kirby scored 13 points apiece to lead the Hot Dogs. Wissman had 12 and Rudd added nine. Big man Dakota Isgrigg battled foul trouble all game and finished with just one field goal and seven points.
Trenton Brazel scored 22 to lead the Tigers, but the Hot Dogs limited him to 10 points through the first three quarters. Johnson added 17 points for the Tigers.