With only one of his top seven varsity players returning this season, Northwestern boys basketball coach Jim Gish had a lot of questions heading into the Tigers’ season opener versus Madison-Grant on Tuesday night.
It didn’t take long for Gish to find out he was going to like most of those answers. Northwestern opened a 15-point lead early in the second quarter and never looked back, cruising to a 72-45 blowout victory.
It was the Tigers’ lone returning regular player, KT All-Area MVP Tayson Parker, who led the second-quarter attack that put Northwestern in control. Northwestern led 15-10 after one quarter, then Parker scored eight points in the first 1:39 of the second quarter, including a steal and a massive breakaway two-handed dunk.
Brayden Bishop added a bucket and a free throw and, suddenly, the Argylls found themselves trailing 26-11 and faced a growing double-figures deficit the rest of the game.
“Tayson was Tayson,” Gish said of his Indiana All-Star candidate. “He did what he needed to do put us in control. I thought he also made a lot of really nice passes. He stepped up at the free-throw line, only missing one. He struggled some at the line during his sophomore and junior years, so he worked hard and focused on that for this season.”
Parker scored 26 in the first half, finishing with game-highs of 37 points and 13 rebounds, finding the net on 10 of 11 free-throw attempts.
“Nathan Bennett got in foul trouble and didn’t play much in the first half, but the rest of the guys didn’t let that throw them off,” Gish said. “I thought Nathan did a nice a nice job staying in control in the second half and hitting some shots four us. And Mason Estle didn’t show up big in the box score, but he’s a really heady player who does a lot of the dirty work for us. He and Parker really work well together.”
Bennett finished with seven points and Bishop came on strong in the second half, scoring six of his nine points after intermission.
“Brayden is very athletic and had a tremendous upside,” Gish said. “He’s only a sophomore. Once he gets used to the competitive speed of the varsity game he’s going to round himself into a nice player. I also thought than Kinney did a nice job on defense for us and on the boards.”
If there was one area Gish was disappointed in for a season-opening game, it was putting the Argylls on the free-throw line 22 times.
“We need to work on some defensive techniques for specific areas of the court and how to defend specific players. This was a fast game and some times that fast pace causes you to lose track of where you’re supposed to be defensively.”
The Tigers take their 1-0 record across Howard County on Saturday to face Eastern.