MISHAWAKA — It had everything but the do-or-die stakes of postseason, but Penn and NorthWood played like it had that, too.
In a ferocious showdown of 17-1 boys high school basketball powerhouses, the overall No. 6-rated Kingsmen outlasted the Class 3A No. 5-ranked Panthers 84-80 in overtime Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Penn Palace.
"I’d say the biggest feature was big shot after made big shot for (both sides)," Kingsmen coach Al Rhodes said, "but also with lots of defense and rebounding and everything else."
"Other than (winning), I think we accomplished our goals coming into this game," NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe said. "We wanted to see good size, speed, skill, and Penn’s exactly those things. I felt tonight gave us an opportunity to get much better than practice (would)."
It was a matchup that didn't even exist on the schedule a week ago, but came about after both teams recently had other games canceled due to the winter weather. Each coach embraced the stiff challenge with postseason approaching.
Jordan Geist poured in 29 points — including 15 over the fourth period and OT — and made three steals, while fellow junior guard Billy Doslak scored 22 points for the Kingsmen with 6-of-12 shooting outside the arc.
Nate Miller, yet a third junior guard for Penn, came off the bench to net 15 points.
The Panthers, who were supported by about 1,000 fans in this added weeknight road game, were paced by forward Zach Zurcher with 25 points one day after he verbally committed to the University of Indianapolis.
Fellow senior Will Stueve added 24 points and 10 rebounds while going 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-8 at the line, and senior Jonathan Wilkinson scored 15 points before fouling out with 1:57 left in regulation.
There were a dozen ties, and a baker’s dozen of lead changes.
The hosts' largest lead was 9-2 just 2:25 into the game, and the visitors' largest was 57-51 at 5:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Geist's 3-pointer at 32 seconds left in the fourth sent the game to OT at 68-all, but not before NorthWood's Kyle McCoy missed a solid-look 15-footer at 3 seconds off a slick feed from sophomore Braxton Linville with another option being covered.
The final lead change of the night came with 1:38 remaining in OT when Geist sank a pair of free throws for a 78-76 count.
NorthWood missed shots on each of its next two possessions, while Penn hit three more free throws for an 81-76 advantage at 51 seconds showing.
Linville, who also dealt nine assists, converted driving shots on each of the Panthers' next two possessions, sandwiched around a Kingsman free throw, as NorthWood closed to 82-80 at 27 seconds left.
Geist hit another free throw at 16 ticks, Linville then badly missed a challenged 3-pointer at 4 seconds, and Geist added a final, clinching free throw at 1.4 remaining.
Miller's 15 points off the bench at least appeared a major difference, given that the Panthers got four points from their bench, but Rhodes doesn't necessarily see Miller as a backup.
"Nate's been a steadying influence for us all year," the Hall of Fame coach said. "People worry too much about who starts the game. I try to tell the kids it's a blank slate, 32 minutes, five positions, and when I take somebody out, I've got to have somebody coming in complementing the players we have left. That's how we build our rotations. We don't have starters as such, but everybody's trying to earn the right to be a finisher."
"Penn made some plays down the stretch to gain separation," Wolfe said, "but I thought our kids battled and it was a very good game for Indiana high school basketball."
"What a wonderful game (NorthWood) played in terms of just very intelligent on offense," Rhodes observed. "Anytime we ended up with a smaller player on their bigger three, their guards figured it out and found the right one inside. We play a lot of four guards and a post, but every time we tried to do that tonight, we got burned. But, we competed just as hard as they did and it was anybody's game."
The Kingsmen improved to 9-0 at home, while the Panthers dropped to 7-1 on the road.
PENN 84, NORTHWOOD 80 (Overftime)
NorthWood — Zach Zurcher 10-18 2-3 25, Jonathan Wilkinson 5-8 4-4 15, Will Stueve 9-11 6-8 24, Tanner Farmwald 1-5 3-4 5, Braxton Linville 3-7 1-2 7, Kyle McCoy 0-2 2-2 2, Dakyrion Fox 0-0 0-0 0, Travis Bear 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 29-52 (.558) 18-23 (.783) 80.
Penn — Christian Wittendorf 0-8 2-2 2, Ryan Lutz 2-7 2-2 6, Andrew Kimm 2-3 2-3 6, Billy Doslak 7-17 2-3 22, Jordan Geist 9-11 8-12 29, Taylor Brooks 2-2 0-0 4, Nate Miller 5-9 3-6 15, Cory Kreiger 0-2 0-0 0, Isaiah Cook 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Chaffee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-59 (.458) 19-28 (.679) 84.
Scoring By Quarters
NorthWood — 17 14 22 15 12 — 80
Penn — 19 13 18 18 16 — 84
3-point goals: NorthWood (4-12) — Zurcher 3-5, Wilkinson 1-2; Penn (11-24) — Doslak 6-12, Geist 3-3, Miller 2-4.
Rebounds: NorthWood (33) — Stueve 10, Zurcher 6, Linville 6; Penn (31) — Kimm 7, Wittendorf 6, Doslak 5.
Assists: NorthWood (16) — Linville 9, Farmwald 3, McCoy 3; Penn (12) — Geist 3.
Steals: NorthWood (3) — Stueve, Farmwald, Linville 1 each; Penn (10) — Wittendorf 5, Geist 3.
Turnovers: NorthWood 15, Penn 9.
Total fouls: NorthWood 23, Penn 19. Fouled out — Wilkinson (1:57, 4th quarter), Linville (0:01.4, ot).
Officials: Mark Jurgevic, Mark McCammon, Rick Scott.
Records: NorthWood 17-2, Penn 18-1.
Next: NorthWood at Whitko, Glenn at Penn, both Friday, Feb. 28.
JV: Penn 47, NorthWood 29. Top scorers: Penn— Luke Gebbie 12, Camden Bohn 12, Mark Burns 10; NorthWood — Vincent Miranda 11, Dakyrion Fox 6. JV records: Penn 18-1, NorthWood 16-3.