SOUTH BEND — Going up against a South Bend Clay boys basketball team that possessed athleticism, size and length, made scoring a challenge for NorthWood.
Toughness was needed and the Panthers displayed plenty of grit Friday in a 66-50 non-conference win over the Colonials.
NorthWood's offensive execution was at its peak late in the first quarter and into the second, as the Panthers turned a 15-13 deficit into a 37-18 lead.
"I think we had a stretch in the second quarter that we played pretty well offensively," said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe, whose team improved to 8-2. "We did a nice job behind a collective effort."
An 8-0 run helped the Panthers take a 21-15 lead to start the second quarter. Jamarr Jackson's basket with :02 left were the final points of the quarter.
"I think we had three straight possessions where we didn't do a very good job of getting back on defense," said Clay coach Doug Barnbrook, whose team fell to 2-7. "I think they got three layups in a row, so that was six points that bumped it up for them at the end of the first quarter. That kind of hurt our momentum."
NorthWood, which went 7-of-9 from the field in the second quarter, took a 43-31 lead into halftime.
What seemed to ignite the Panthers in the second quarter was a dunk by 6-foot-3 Jason Borkholder over Clay center Anthony Neal, who stands 6-foot-7. The dunk gave NorthWood a 24-17 lead with 5:35 left in the second.
"Jason got a steal and got out in transition and made a fantastic play," Wolfe said about the dunk. "I thought he played through some contact. I think it was uplifting to our basketball team to see kind of a highlight reel kind of play."
What happened soon after the dunk wasn't a highlight to Wolfe, as an emotional Borkholder was issued a technical. The Colonials weren't able to take advantage as Tim Kranke missed both technical free throws.
"I probably need to touch base with (Borkholder)," Wolfe said. "I think we need to understand that we're dealing with 16, 17 and 18 year old young men. Emotions sometimes are going to be high. That was an emotional play, not only for our team, but for him. Obviously, I don't know if we would condone technicals, but it's one of those things where you're proud of his effort."
Wolfe had to be just as proud of team's defensive effort, as NorthWood held Clay to 34% shooting (21-of-62) for the game. The Colonials were also only 5-of-11 at the free-throw line.
"(NorthWood) switched to a 1-3-1 zone and we didn't do a very good job of moving the ball in the second quarter," Barnbrook said. "We weren't very patient and we didn't shoot the ball very well tonight. We also didn't get the ball inside."
Clay never got the deficit under double digits in the second half, as the Colonials got within 10 points three times, with the last time being at 54-44 with 6:10 remaining in the game. Ben Vincent's 3-pointer with 5:27 left upped NorthWood's lead back up to 13.
Jackson scored 21 points lead the Panthers. Brock Flickinger added 14, Vincent had 11 and Trent Edwards totaled nine.
NorthWood, which finished with a 45-24 rebounding advantage, got 10 boards from Borkholder, nine from Edwards and six from Jackson.
"I'm really proud of Jamarr," Wolfe said. "He played with a tremendous motor tonight. He was able to get out in transition some. He's a good rebounder and he was very active cutting to the basket."
The one negative during the game for the Panthers was the ability to consistently take care of the basketball, as NorthWood finished with 21 turnovers.
"I think you have to give Clay credit," Wolfe said about the miscues. "But, at the same time, I think that can be an area of improvement for us. I thought maybe our passing wasn't as crisp as it has been in other games."
Neal scored 14 points and Robert Allen added 10 to lead the Colonials, who finished with eight blocked shots and 13 steals.
NORTHWOOD 66, SB CLAY 50
NORTHWOOD: Jason Borkholder 2 2-3 6, Brock Flickinger 5 2-2 14, Jamarr Jackson 6 9-9 21, Trent Edwards 4 0-1 9, Ben Vincent 4 1-2 11, Josh Stratford 0 0-0 0, Cooper Wiens 1 0-0 2, Cade Brenner 1 0-0 2, Ian Raasch 0 1-2 1, Andrew Miller 0 0-0 0, Caden Graham 0 0-0 0, Neez Smith 0 0-0 0, JJ Payne 0 0-0 0, Brock Bontrager 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 23-48 (.479), 15-19 (.784), 66.
CLAY: Robert Allen 3 4-5 10, Joshua Black 4 0-0 8, Anthony Neal 6 1-1 14, Jahawn Horton 1 0-0 2, Verrontae Johnson 4 0-3 8, Christian Love 0 0-0 0, Jackson Jones 0 0-0 0, Nicholas Wade 3 0-0 8, Tim Kranke 0 0-2 0, Anttwon Gregory 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21-62 (.338), 5-11 (.454), 50.
3-point goals: NorthWood (5) - Flickinger 2, Vincent 2, Edwards; Clay (3) - Wade 2, Neal. Rebounds: NorthWood (45) - Borkholder 10, Edwards 9, Jackson 6, Flickinger 5; Clay (24) - Johnson 8, Neal 7. Turnovers: NorthWood 21, Clay 13. Steals: NorthWood (5) - Wiens 2; Clay (13) - Horton 4, Allen 3, Johnson 2, Black 2. Total fouls: NorthWood 13, Clay 18. Technical: Borkholder. Fouled out: none. Records: NorthWood 8-2, Clay 2-7. JV: NorthWood 55, Clay 37.