Foul trouble took a major bite out of the Purple Tigers on Wednesday night.
Northwestern's boys basketball team grabbed nine steals in the first half of its season opener, as it caused Madison-Grant fits with full-court pressure, building a 32-19 lead by halftime.
But the starting backcourt duo of Graham Ortmann and Blaine Brutus both picked up three fouls in the first half, and were saddled with their fourth fouls early in the third quarter. With the two as spectators for crucial stretches of the second half, the Argylls chipped away little by little, taking their first lead with 33 seconds to play before hanging on to take a 52-50 victory.
"We were in foul trouble all night long, and it really put some weird combinations on the floor for us," Northwestern coach Jim Gish said. "Combinations we're not used to seeing because we had to play different guys in different spots. But that's on us. Our rotations were slow and our recognition was even slower. And, at times I thought we were flat-footed [Wednesday] night, and I'm not sure why."
Ortmann hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Tyler Hudson added six points as Northwestern jumped to a 20-16 lead through eight minutes. The Tigers' press took its toll on the Argylls in the second quarter, in particular, where Northwestern grabbed five steals and held M-G without a field goal on just six attempts from the field. With Ortmann and Brutus out of action, reserve guard Evan Matlock scored eight points in the first half, including five in the second quarter as the Tigers outscored the Argylls 12-3 in the second stanza.
"We went on a run, and I think it stemmed from our defensive effort," Gish said. "When we play the type of defense we can play, we're a lot of fun to watch. But, I think probably the story of the game was we ended up with 25 turnovers. That might be the most valuable thing for Madison-Grant that we went 25 times without getting a shot. ...That's something we have to look at and fix, because you can't give away 25 possessions in 32 minutes of a high school basketball game and expect to win."
The Argylls hit Northwestern with a 10-3 run through the first 2:50 of the third quarter to get back within 35-30. The Tigers committed six turnovers in the first 4:10 of the third stanza, five coming on M-G steals. The Argylls found an offensive rhythm, as well, connecting on 9 of 13 shots in the third quarter to help them pull within 42-39 headed into the fourth.
"I told the kids before the game that facing this kind of pressure in the first game out of the gate is going to be very difficult because you can't simulate that in practice," M-G coach Brian Trout said. "In the first half we didn't handle it real well. I told them at halftime to stay the course and continue to run our press offense and they'd break it and get good looks. And we did, and we put a lot of pressure on them real early in the second half and got back in the game."
Trailing 47-44 with 4:06 to play, guard Trevor McNutt threw up a lob from the volleyball line that was off line of its target, but right on line with the basket, falling in to pull the Argylls even for the first time since the opening tip.
Ortmann and Aaron Patton traded 3s a little over a minute later. The squads then traded turnovers much of the rest of the way, until McNutt drove the lane with 33 seconds left and dished off to Aaron Dreaden for a deuce from the block to give M-G its first lead of the night at 52-50.
Northwestern was unable to get a clean look in its final possession, before Matt Carey came away with a steal out of scrum for the Argylls just ahead of the buzzer.
Ortmann led the Tigers with 12 points, but was limited to three points after the first quarter. Matlock finished with 10 points off the bench, Logan Galbraith added nine points, and Jacob Wagner pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Brutus finished with six points before fouling out with 4:41 to play.
Patton led M-G with 15 points, and Dreaden added 11 points and nine boards.