NorthWood's special run ends in regional semifinals

The Panthers (21-3) got down 8-0 at the start, trailed 32-16 at halftime and then cut the lead to 40-37 in the fourth quarter before falling 50-44 to Fort Wayne Dwenger.

Posted on March 15, 2014 at 2:35 p.m.

HARTFORD CITY — NorthWood made a ferocious comeback after falling into a deep deficit and then came up short as its special boys basketball season was halted by Fort Wayne Dwenger.

The Saints beat the Panthers 50-44 on Saturday, March 15, in the semifinals of the Class 3A Blackford Regional. Dwenger went on to top Muncie Central 50-47 in the championship game.

Dwenger led NorthWood 8-0 early and 32-16 at halftime.

"We almost needed two runs to get back in the basketball game," said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe.

The Saints outrebounded the Panthers 14-4 in the first half, including 9-1 in the opening period.

"We knew that if we were not able to grab a rebound, it was going to be a long morning," said Wolfe.

NorthWood (21-3) made one run, but did not have enough left in the tank for two.

The Panthers scored 16 third-quarter points while the Saints settled for four free throws as Dwenger's lead shrank to 36-32.

"We just couldn't get it at the end," said NorthWood senior Jonathan Wilkinson, who netted six of his 13 points in the third quarter.

"(NorthWood's) defensive pressure bothered us in the second half," said Saints coach Matt Kostoff. "But they had to use so much energy in the second half to get back into the game.

"We really couldn't have played much better in the first half. We couldn't have played much worse in the third quarter."

A 3-pointer at 4:12 from Panthers sophomore Braxton Linville (who had three 3-pointers and nine points on the morning) cut the Dwenger lead to 40-37.

The Saints bumped the lead back to nine with layups by Jeff Mugg and Marcus Stepp and two free throws from Grady Eifert.

Dwenger was paced by Mugg (15 points), Eifert (10), Stepp (nine) and Kyle Hartman (eight).

"We started too late," said NorthWood senior Zach Zurcher, who wound up with 16 points and 15 rebounds. "(Dwenger) did a great job of getting us out of our offense (in the first half).

"They were quick off the dribble defensively."

Wilkinson said the Saints had several players in the lane in the first half, clogging things up.

"They did a great job of protecting the basket area," said Wolfe. "They changed their pressure on certain players.

"It took us awhile to adjust to their personnel. The style of play made it difficult for us to score in the post."

Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff called Zurcher and Wilkinson two of the best players his team faced all season.

"We had to know where Zach and Jonathan were at all times," said Kostoff. "We play no one who compares with those guys the way they play inside and outside and move without the ball."

Zurcher said the Panthers never panicked.

"Our mindset is to play the game, not the score and do our thing," said Zurcher. "It's very disappointing. I love every one of (my teammates). We do everything together. They are like my brothers.

"I appreciate the effort they gave. I hope they can say the same about me."

NorthWood's 21 wins set a school single-season record. The Panthers won the Wawasee Sectional. It was a special season.

"Our players have no regrets," said Wolfe. "They care about each other. They care about the quality of play in practice and in games.

"They set a standard in our basketball culture."

The expectations were high. They wanted to win a state championship.

"I'm proud for the goals they set," said Wolfe. "But it always hurts when you fall short."


Dwenger — Grady Eifert 2-6 5-9 10, Jeff Mugg 7-10 1-2 15, Michael Fiacable 3-4 0-0 6, Kyle Hartman 0-8 8-10 8, Marcus Stepp 4-11 1-2 9, David Peters 1-1 0-0 2, Ryan Christman 0-1 0-0 0, Noah Freimuth 0-0 0-0 0, Antonio Blackmon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-41 (.415) 15-23 (.652) 50.

NorthWood — Will Stueve 3-7 0-0 6, Jonathan Wilkinson 5-12 2-3 13, Tanner Farmwald 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Zurcher 5-8 4-6 16, Braxton Linville 3-6 0-0 9, Kyle McCoy 0-4 0-0 0, Dakyrion Fox 0-0 0-0 0, Travis Bear 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-38 (.421) 6-9 (.667) 44.

Scoring By Quarters

Dwenger — 17 15 4 14 — 50

NorthWood — 9 7 16 12 — 44

3-point goals: Dwenger (1-4) — Eifert 1-2; NorthWood (6-16) — Linville 3-6, Zurcher 2-3, Wilkinson 1-4.

Rebounds: Dwenger (26) — Fiacable 6, Eifert 5, Mugg 4, Stepp 4; NorthWood (26) — Zurcher 15, Wilkinson 3.

Assists: Dwenger (7) — Eifert 2, Stepp 2; NorthWood (9) — Linville 3, Wilkinson 2, Farmwald 2.

Steals: Dwenger (6) — Fiacable 4; NorthWood (4) — Stueve 2.

Turnovers: Dwenger 7, NorthWood 14.

Total fouls: Dwenger 12, NorthWood 18. Fouled out — none.

Record: NorthWood 21-3.

Other semifinal: Muncie Central 74, Norwell 70. Record: Norwell 19-7.

Championship: Dwenger 50, Muncie Central 47. Records: Dwenger 17-8, Muncie Central 12-11.

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