TOPEKA — When you start 20 games as a junior and lead your team in assists and steals, the last place you might expect to find yourself as a senior is starting games on the bench.
But that’s how it’s gone for NorthWood senior Kyle McCoy, who has become a Panther backup this season with the emergence of sophomore point guard Braxton Linville.
McCoy showed Thursday, Dec. 12, at Westview just how seamlessly he’s adapted to his new role, scoring 10 points and making two steals in 20 minutes as the Panthers rallied for a 64-52 boys high school basketball victory that improved them to 3-0.
“Kyle McCoy had a phenomenal year for us at point guard as a junior last year,” NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. “He’s an extremely unselfish player, and he has accepted the role of being our sixth-man spark off the bench. It’s (a different position), but it’s similar to what Will Stueve did for us last year.”
“I think I’ve handled it,” said McCoy, who went 3-of-6 on 3-pointers. “At first I was confused, but we have a sophomore in Braxton who’s very good with the ball, great handles. Sometimes he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing in practice, and I try to help him out. I’m going to praise him, lift him up, and not get down on myself. I know I’m going to come in and play starter minutes. I take it as it is.”
“I think it’s a combination of Kyle’s maturity and understanding that at any given moment we could start any one of those first six players,” Wolfe said of what’s made the transition work.
Shooting didn’t work for the Panthers during much of Thursday’s first half — they were 8-of-25 from the field and 4-of-8 from the line — but they still closed it by going on a 7-0 spurt to take a 23-22 lead at the intermission.
And then they came out scorching hot in the third quarter, hitting seven of their first eight field goals on their way to a 39-29 lead.
The Warriors (2-2) momentarily cut the spread to eight, but then NorthWood steadily pulled away, leading by a high of 60-41 with four minutes to play.
Senior Zach Zurcher, on his birthday, led the Panthers with 15 points, 12 of those in the second half, and added a game-high four steals.
Jonathan Wilkinson netted 14 points to go with a game-high eight rebounds, and fellow senior Stueve had 12 points and six boards.
Linville contributed eight points, a game-high seven assists and six rebounds.
“I felt with how we played in the first half, we were fortunate to be ahead,” Wolfe said, “but I also felt if we could finish some plays we didn’t in the first half, we could make a game of it. It just so happens when we made some shots, they missed some, and that gave us some separation.”
Westview fell despite a sparkling showing by senior guard Jordyn Bontrager with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
He finished 10-of-17 from the field with two treys, while the rest of the team finished a combined 11-of-34 with two.
“Our shot selection wasn’t very good in some of the key moments of the game,” Warrior coach Rob Yoder said. “We got in a hurry and took some tough, contested shots. I think we had four jump shots blocked, and if they block four jump shots, you’re not open.”
NorthWood hit 17-of-26 field goals in the second half for 65 percent, more than twice as good as its 32 percent in the first half.
The Panthers also took exceptional care of the ball most of the evening, committing just two turnovers over the first three quarters.
“I think our guard play is getting stronger,” Wolfe said. “The combination of Braxton Linville, Kyle McCoy and Tanner Farmwald, it looks like they’re poised and can direct our team on offense, which I feel is resulting in good shots.”
“We have a bunch of great team players,” McCoy said. “Zach and Jon, they’re our two primary scorers, and when (the defense) goes in on them, it leaves shooters wide open, like I was a couple times tonight.”
Junior Chandler Aspy scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Westview. Senior Jamar Weaver added nine points.
“I feel like we’re an improving team,” Yoder said, “if for no other reason than we’re getting guys healthy all the time. I think we’re going to keep improving.”
Aspy missed the first game of the season due to illness, and among the Warriors’ backups, Kolton Miller has just returned from illness, Daron Miller is slated to be back Dec. 28 and Chase Anderson could return from a broken arm in early January.
NORTHWOOD 64, WESTVIEW 52
NorthWood — Zach Zurcher 6-14 3-4 15, Jonathan Wilkinson 5-12 3-4 14, Will Stueve 6-9 0-0 12, Tanner Farmwald 2-3 0-0 4, Braxton Linville 3-6 0-0 8, Kyle McCoy 3-7 1-2 10, Dakyrion Fox 0-0 1-2 1, Travis Bear 0-0 0-0 0, Cam Simpson 0-0 0-0 0, Vincent Miranda 0-0 0-0 0, Zach Schwartz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-51 (.490) 8-12 (.667) 64.
Westview — Chandler Aspy 4-12 2-2 10, Judah Zickafoose 2-8 0-2 4, Jamar Weaver 3-7 1-2 9, Andrew Yoder 2-3 0-0 4, Jordyn Bontrager 10-17 3-5 25, Brody Jantzi 0-0 0-0 0, Cody Litwiller 0-1 0-0 0, Kolton Miller 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 21-50 (.420) 6-11 (.545) 52.
Scoring By Quarters
NorthWood 9 14 24 17 — 64
Westview 12 10 13 17 — 52
3-point goals: NorthWood (6-13) — McCoy 3-6, Linville 2-3, Wilkinson 1-2; Westview (4-11) — Weaver 2-3, Bontrager 2-6.
Rebounds: NorthWood (31) — Wilkinson 8, Stueve 6, Linville 6, Zurcher 5; Westview (26) — Aspy 8, Zickafoose 6, Bontrager 6.
Assists: NorthWood (18) — Linville 7, Farmwald 4; Westview (8) — Bontrager 5.
Steals: NorthWood (7) — Zurcher 4, McCoy 2; Westview (3) — Bontrager 2.
Turnovers: NorthWood 7, Westview 11.
Fouls: NorthWood 12, Westview 11. Fouled out — none.
Officials: Gene Teel, Wes Yoder, Jon Hampton.
Records: NorthWood 3-0, Westview 2-2.
Next: Fairfield at NorthWood, Westview at Central Noble, both Saturday, Dec. 14.
JV: NorthWood 51, Westview 36. Top scorers: NorthWood — Vincent Miranda 21, Dakyrion Fox 7, David Eshelman 7, Trey Bilinksi 7; Westview — Lincoln McDonald 17, Tim Miller 8, Lucas Yoder 8. JV records: NorthWood 3-0, Westview 1-3.