An old nemesis stung Northwestern’s boys basketball team in its opener Tuesday night.
Turnovers were a problem last season, and the Purple Tigers have improved significantly at handling the ball, but errors hurt in the second half as Madison-Grant made up ground, then shot into the lead in the second half to beat Northwestern 59-54.
“We had a few timely turnovers that really turned the game,” NW coach Jim Gish said. “The two things that come to mind is timely turnovers, and we gave up a couple offensive rebounds, and we lost shooters after those rebounds.”
Northwestern led 27-20 at halftime but M-G came out firing from beyond the arc in the second half. The Argylls’ Jase Howard hit three 3-balls in the third quarter and Clayton Hull added one as M-G forged a tie at 38-all to end the third. Northwestern had six turnovers in the third quarter, and another six in the fourth.
“For a first game, we knew there would be a few jitters, so the turnover bug cost us at crucial times,” Gish said. “I think we have a 3-point lead with two possessions to stretch that 3-point lead and we turned the ball over in both possessions.”
The game was tied again at 48-all with 3:54 left when M-G took the lead for good, going up 52-48 when Peyton Southerland slipped inside on a drive, and Howell went coast-to-coast with a steal for a tough contested layup. Northwestern was never closer than three points down after that.
The Tigers had asserted themselves early, going to center Eli Edwards early and often. The All-Area player had Northwestern’s first eight points for an 8-2 lead and finished with a game-high 27 points, as well as 10 rebounds. Koen Berry added 12 points and Connor Bostic and Caden Lechner five each. All of Lechner’s points came on offensive rebounds.
“The second half we did a little bit better job on the big kid down low, the Edwards kid,” new M-G coach Josh Hendrixson said. “We started to get a little more physical with him, we started to figure out maybe some guys we could help off of.
“The first half we kind of played into their hands a little. I started the game in our man-to-man fullcourt defense and they were getting some easy stuff off that, so I think dropping back into the halfcourt and then picking them up there and getting some ball pressure really helped us.”
Madison-Grant is retooling with a new coach after graduating its top four scorers. M-G hit five 3-pointers after halftime, sparking the Argylls and helping turn the game. Howell hit four of those and finished with a team-high 25 points.
“Howell can shoot it and we know that and we lost him a couple times due to our lack of communication,” Gish said. “It wasn’t out of any type of offense that they were running, we just flat out lost him. Our communication was horrendous.”
That’s one of the factors that Gish expects the Tigers to learn from after the opener.
“We have to be able to communicate,” he said. “If you don’t communicate on a basketball floor, you’re not going to be a good basketball team. So communication, and we missed some key blockouts at crucial times in the game.”