Jonathan Wilkinson says one of the things most etched into his memory from an historically memorable night is a look he saw from NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe.
"I'll particularly remember a shot I made in transition where I lined up about 3 feet behind the (3-point) line and then looked over at Coach and he had this weird expression on his face I've never seen and can't even describe," Wilkinson said. "It was a look like, 'You better be glad you made that, but keep doing what you're doing.'"
Indeed Wilkinson kept doing what he was doing. Enough so to score 41 points in just three quarters of play as the Panthers buried visiting Bremen 104-54 on Friday, Feb. 21, at The Pit.
ANTHONY'S TWINE 12
1. Penn (1) 17-1
2. Northridge (2) 17-2
3. NorthWood (3) 17-1
4. SB Washington (4) 13-4
5. SB Adams (6) 13-6
6. SB St. Joseph (7) 14-5
7. Concord (5) 12-6
8. Marian (11) 11-7
9. Westview (9) 15-4
10. Elkhart Christian (8) 15-4
11. Prairie Heights (10) 13-6
12. West Noble (—) 16-4
Last week's ranking in parentheses Dropped out: Glenn (12). Teams chosen from among the 38 making up the NLC, NIC, NSC, NECC and independents Bethany and Elkhart Christian.
When it was over, Wilkinson and fellow senior Zach Zurcher had become the first-ever teammates in Elkhart County boys basketball history to reach 1,000 career points in the same game.
Zurcher went in needing 18, and got 25. Wilkinson went in needing 40, and got the 41.
While, sure, it was nice to reach 1,000 on Senior Night, to do so in the final home opportunity of his career, and to do it in the same game that Zurcher was likely do it, there's no way Wilkinson could’ve gone into the game expecting to score 40, right?
After all, that would easily be a career high, and more than twice his average.
"Actually, my mindset was if I was hitting my shots, I was going to go for the 40, and if I wasn't, I wouldn't," Wilkinson said.
Oh, man, was he hitting them. So much so that he went 6-of-6 on 3-pointers in the first half.
At intermission, Wilkinson had 22 points, Zurcher was already over 1,000 with 21, and the Panthers led 51-21.
"We wanted to keep playing, wanted to get Jon his (1,000) points," Zurcher said. "We just decided we'd get the ball to him."
"Generally, I do not talk about individual accomplishments, but I think our players were really pulling for those two players to both do it," Wolfe said. "I think our team understands the amount of time and effort those two have put in, and I was very proud of our team, because they came together to help them achieve a goal that kind of became a team goal."
So, in the third quarter, consistently being fed by his teammates, Wilkinson cranked up his production even further, pouring in 19 of the 28 points NorthWood netted in that period.
Then, just after Wilkinson went over 1,000, and with 1:03 still left in that third quarter, Wilkinson and Zurcher checked out of the game for good, Wilkinson doing so on a night he probably would've otherwise broken Robby Prenkert's single-game scoring record of 46.
Combined, Wilkinson and Zurcher finished 23-of-31 from the field, including 10-of-14 on 3-pointers, and 9-of-10 at the line.
As a team, the Panthers drained 16-of-22 shots outside the arc.
"It was a surreal night," Wolfe said. "I have not been part of a shooting performance like we experienced from the perimeter in that game."
And a fitting ending to the night was yet to come. At NorthWood, as part of a raffle, a fan is typically selected to take a half-court shot at halftime, but because halftime was filled with Senior Night and Sweetheart activities, that shot was pushed to postgame Friday.
With Panther players still out on the court, Josh Miller lined up the long-distance heave, and drained it.
Miller won $250, not a bad complement to Wilkinson and Zurcher each netting a grand.
The marquee boys basketball game for Tuesday, Feb. 25 — and perhaps of the entire area regular season — is one that didn't even exist on the schedule a week ago.
It's Class 3A No. 5-ranked NorthWood (17-1) at overall No. 6-rated Penn (17-1), and it's a challenge Wolfe was eager to accept upon getting an invitation from his mentor.
The contest only came about because NorthWood’s game last week against Glenn was postponed, with no suitable date available to make it up based on Glenn's schedule.
The Kingsmen, coached by Al Rhodes, already had an open slot on their schedule with the cancellation of a game against Fort Wayne South.
"There are many times throughout the year that I will reach out to Coach Rhodes, be it game preparation, scheduling, and this was one of those instances," said Wolfe, who assisted Rhodes for three years at Warsaw. "I was inquiring about what might be a good solution. He mentioned it would be a good idea for us to play each other, and I listened. I usually listen to a Hall of Fame coach."
For each team, it'll be a beneficial matchup with sectionals approaching.
"I felt our players deserved to play a 20-game schedule this year," Wolfe said of even looking for an opponent this late in the season. "They've worked really hard in their basketball careers. And then for it to be Penn, it gives us an opportunity to see great skill, size and quickness with the tournament coming."
The Panthers enter the matchup 7-0 on the road, while the Kingsmen enter it 8-0 at home.
Among other games Tuesday, Elkhart Central, Concord, Goshen, Bethany Christian and Marian each play their regular-season home finales, while Westview can wrap up at least a share of the Northeast Corner Conference title by winning at Fremont.
PERSPECTIVE AND PERSPIRATION
It couldn't have been easy for Fairfield to turn around and fight ferociously in an afternoon game Saturday, Feb. 22, against Westview about 18 hours after being stunned in overtime at Churubusco, but the Falcons did it.
The loss to the Eagles had cost Fairfield a realistic shot at a piece of the NECC title, something the Falcons had expected to still be chasing against the Warriors.
Though they went on to also lose to Westview, 43-37, it wasn't for lack of a spirited effort, particularly on the defensive end.
"We just told them, ‘That's life, and life doesn't always go your way,’" Fairfield coach Troy Beachy said of what he shared with his players after the Friday loss. "There's bigger things in life than losing a basketball game. At the same time, we just told them that your career's short and you only get a chance to play this game so many times. To not come out ready to play would've been frustrating to us as coaches, to themselves and to the community. No, it wasn't easy, but I thought we gave a tough effort."
IHSAA BOYS AREA RECORDS
W-L Off. Def.
NorthWood 17-1 63.7 47.9
Penn 17-1 68.4 52.8
Northridge 17-2 62.9 54.1
Elkhart Christian 15-4 68.4 47.8
Westview 15-4 58.6 47.7
Concord 12-6 56.7 49.6
Marian 11-7 58.3 53.5
Fairfield 10-8 57.9 53.7
Goshen 9-9 46.3 48.3
Elkhart Memorial 7-11 54.8 59.6
Jimtown 7-11 46.4 46.5
Elkhart Central 5-13 56.8 58.1
Wawasee 4-14 46.1 54.7
Bethany Christian 3-15 45.4 60.3
G Pts Avg
Nate Ritchie, Northridge 19 460 24.2
Devin Cannady, Marian 18 388 21.6
Zach Zurcher, NWood 18 378 21.0
Ramon Johnson, Concord 18 356 19.8
Jon Wilkinson, NWood 18 334 18.6
Joe Line, Fairfield 18 325 18.1
Jordyn Bontrager, Wview 19 343 18.1
Cory Waycaster, ECA 19 326 17.2
Jordan Geist, Penn 18 295 16.4
Ryan Kupferschmid, ECA 19 302 15.9
Dimitri Giger, Memorial 18 283 15.7
Filip Serwatka, Concord 18 277 15.4
Chandler Aspy, Wview 18 268 14.9
Alex Clark, Wawasee 18 245 13.6
Treyton Harris, Central 18 244 13.6
Sol Brenneman, Bethany 18 241 13.4
Tray Qualls, Memorial 4 53 13.3
Billy Doslak, Penn 18 215 11.9
Pete Smith, Northridge 19 223 11.7
Abe Thorne, Bethany 18 211 11.7
Nick Floyd, Jimtown 18 210 11.7
Deric Haynes, Goshen 18 203 11.3
Cam Maxwell, Memorial 18 199 11.1
Gage Reinhard, Wawasee 18 187 10.4
Brady Bechtel, Goshen 8 82 10.3
Will Stueve, NorthWood 18 180 10.0
Austin Woolett, Goshen 18 175 9.7
Judah Zickafoose, Wview 19 180 9.5
A.J. Gary, Memorial 18 169 9.4
Adam DeShone, Jimtown 18 168 9.3
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Tuesday, Feb. 25
• Elkhart Christian vs. Elkhart Central at North Side Gym
• Elkhart Memorial at SB Clay (5-14)
• Mishawaka (3-15) at Concord
• Jimtown at Fairfield
• NorthWood at Penn
• SB St. Joseph (14-5) at Goshen
• Central Noble (1-18) at Bethany Christian
• Bremen (2-15 before Oregon-Davis Feb. 24) at Marian
• Westview at Fremont (4-14)
Thursday, Feb. 27
• Wawasee at Plymouth (8-10)
• Marian at SB Riley (10-7 before New Prairie Feb. 25), nonconference
Friday, Feb. 28
• Michigan City Marquette (13-6) vs. Elkhart Memorial at North Side Gym
• Elkhart Central at LaPorte (12-7)
• Concord at Westview
• LaVille (9-9 before SB Career Academy Feb. 25) at Jimtown
• Goshen at West Noble (16-4)
• Northridge at DeKalb (7-13 before Lakeland Feb. 25)
• NorthWood at Whitko (1-17 before Northfield Feb. 25)
• Central Noble at Fairfield
• Bethany Christian at Fremont
• Tippecanoe Valley (15-3) at Wawasee
• Glenn (11-5 before Plymouth Feb. 25) at Penn
(End of Regular Season)