NAPPANEE — Junior Jonathan Wilkinson scored 24 points and classmate Zach Zurcher added 18 as the NorthWood Panthers downed the Class 1A #4-ranked Triton Trojans 66-62 in the Panthers’ season opener at The Pit in Nappanee.
The scoring output by the NorthWood duo was topped by a combined 52 points from Triton’s Clay Yeo and Tanner Shepherd, but the rest of the Trojan squad could manage just 10 points together while the Panthers got at least four points from four other players in a true team effort.
The first quarter was a real barn-burner, with the two teams combining to drain nine three pointers including two each from Yeo and Shepherd and a pair from NorthWood junior guard Kyle McCoy. But when the dust had cleared, NorthWood held a slim 22-21 lead thanks to 9 points from Wilkinson and buckets by four other Panther players.
The three-point onslaught slowed somewhat in the second quarter, but the scoring continued nevertheless as Wilkinson and Zurcher put up 10 points for NorthWood while Yeo and Shepherd canned 12 for Triton, sending the teams to the locker room tied at 36.
The raucous Panther student section, led by senior girls basketball star Savannah Bley, a Taylor recruit who is going to Taylor to play basketball, performed a wild halftime dance, firing up the home crowd before the second half tip. Panther guard Tanner Farmwald caught the fever, promptly canning a three and a two to put the Panthers in the lead and although Yeo poured in nine more points, NorthWood held a 52-49 lead going to the final quarter.
With the Panthers still clinging to a precarious two-point lead, senior Tommy Klem put back a huge rebound basket to extend NorthWood’s lead to 62-58. Less than a minute later, a steal by McCoy and a feed to Zurcher extended the lead to six at 64-58, but Shepherd and Yeo each nailed a basket to trim the margin to 64-62 with 23 seconds remaining. After nearly losing the ball twice, NorthWood finally executed a series of sharp passes that resulted in a Zurcher hoop with six seconds remaining to seal the win and send the Panther crowd home happy with the season-opening win.
In addition to the combined 42 points by Wilkinson and Zurcher, Farmwald and McCoy each added eight points for NorthWood. Wilkinson also led the way on the glass for the Panthers with five rebounds, while Zurcher and Klem added four boards apiece. Triton’s Yeo led all scorers with 31 while Shepherd added 21 as the Trojans fell to 1-2 on the year.
NorthWood (1-0) remains at home Thursday, Dec. 6 to host unbeaten Westview (3-0), then travels to Fairfield Saturday, Dec. 8 to battle the Falcons (1-1).
The NorthWood JV squad also opened with an exciting victory, topping Triton 38-35 in overtime. Junior Gabe Williams led the Panthers with 15 points, 13 of them coming in the crucial fourth period and overtime, which was only made possible when freshman Dakiyron Fox put back a rebound at the buzzer to force the extra session. Sophomore Cam Simpson added nine points for the winners, while freshman Jordan Anderson led Triton with 17 points.
• NORTHWOOD 66, TRITON 62
At The Pit, Nappanee
Triton 21 36 49 62
NorthWood 22 36 52 66
NORTHWOOD (66): Braxton Linville 0 0-0 0, Zach Zurcher 8 2-5 18, Tanner Farmwald 3 0-0 8, Tommy Klem 2 0-0 4, Kyle McCoy 3 0-0 8, Jonathan Wilkinson 10 0-1 24, Will Stueve 2 0-0 4 TOTALS 28 2-6 66
TRITON (62): Clay Yeo 12 4-4 31, Darren Harrell 0 0-0 0, Bryson Mosier 1 0-0 3, Bruce Wanemacher 0 0-0 0, Trenton Cooper 0 0-0 0, Tanner Shepherd 8 1-2 21, Seth Glingle 1 2-3 4, Skyler Reichert 1 0-0 3 TOTALS 23 7-9 62
3-Point Goals: NorthWood 8 (Wilkinson 4, Farmwald 2, McCoy 2); Triton 9 (Shepherd 4, Yeo 3, Mosier, Reichert)