Panthers fall in Sectional championship

SYRACUSE — NorthWood’s 1-2 punch of Jonathan Wilkinson and Zach Zurcher, who combined for 34 points, was not enough to counter the combined 50 points from the three-pronged attack of Tippecanoe Valley’s Nick Kindig, Chainey Zolman and Tanner Andrews, as the Vikings defeated the Panthers 60-51 to capture the Class 3A Sectional championship at Wawasee High School, on Saturday, March 2.
It was the second tournament victory by Valley over NorthWood this season, the previous win coming in the holiday tournament by a 59-53 score.
Tippecanoe Valley 60, NorthWood 51 – Sectional Championship
The Panthers got off to a fantastic start in the final, scoring the first seven points and increasing the margin to 13-2 before Valley tallied the final five points of the quarter to make it 13-7 at the first stop.
Wilkinson poured in nine first-quarter points on three-of-three from the field and the charity stripe, while Andrews scored four of the Vikings’ seven points.
In the second quarter, the troublesome 1-3-1 Valley zone that doomed the Panthers in the holiday tournament began to bother NorthWood again, as the Vikings scored the first five points before Tanner Farmwald hit a teardrop in the lane to stop the bleeding.
“It was a combination of their defense and our inability to attack,” said Panther Coach Aaron Wolfe. “I wish we could have played better.”
Some sloppy ball handling by the Panthers led to four second-stanza turnovers but NorthWood remained in the lead until Zolman drained a three from the left baseline at the buzzer, his second trey of the quarter, to make it 24-22 Valley at the break.
Zolman, who scored just two points in the regular-season meeting, had eight points in the quarter and combined with seven from Kindig, was the primary spark in the Viking comeback.
Things did not improve for the Panthers in the third quarter as NorthWood could not find a way to crack the Viking defense.
Zurcher and Wilkinson kept their team alive with six points each but no other Panther found the mark in the quarter.
Meanwhile, Kindig nailed a pair of long threes for Valley as the Vikings expanded their advantage to 40-34 with eight minutes left.
Valley built the lead to eight at 45-37 after yet another bucket by Zolman halfway through the final period, but the Panthers rallied on basket by Farmwald, followed by a steal by McCoy and a block by Will Stueve which led to three free throws that cut the Viking lead to 47-42.
Four straight points by the Vikings put the margin back at nine at 51-42, however, and despite a pair of threes down the stretch by NorthWood’s Wilkinson, the Panthers never got closer than six points as Kindig and Andrews combined to hit nine-of-12 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Wilkinson scored 21 points and pulled down six rebounds to lead NorthWood, finishing an outstanding sectional tournament in which the junior swingman tallied 57 points in the three games.
Zurcher chipped in with 13 while Klem scored eight in his final game in a NorthWood uniform.
Kindig paced the Vikings with 20 points, followed by 18 from Zolman and 12 from Andrews.
“(Zolman) is very capable,” Valley coach Bill Patrick said of the sophomore who knocked down all four of his three-point attempts. “We thought he was the guy who had to step up for us.”
Wolfe agreed: “Zolman was the difference-maker. He gave them a good lift.”
NorthWood finished the season with a record of 16-7 while Tippecanoe Valley (20-3) moves on to the Blackford Regional.
NorthWood crushes Fairfield in semi-finals
NorthWood 71, Fairfield 41 – Sectional Game 2
The semi-final game on Friday, March 1, looked to be a blowout, based on the Panthers’ 28-point regular season win over the Falcons, and the game lived up to its billing as NorthWood went on a 21-0 run in the second quarter to bury any slim Fairfield hopes of advancing.
The Falcons had just one lead in the game at 2-0, but NorthWood scored the next 12 points before Fairfield junior Marcus Rhodes hit a three at the first-quarter buzzer to make it 12-5 Panthers.
Wilkinson scored six points for NorthWood in the period on three-of-three shooting.
In the second quarter, after Fairfield’s Garrett Scott scored two quick buckets, NorthWood exploded for 21 straight points, 10 of them by junior Tanner Farmwald who was four of four from the field in the quarter, including a pair of treys.
McCoy added five points in the period as the Panther backcourt duo carried the squad.
“Our guards, Farmwald, McCoy, and (Braxton) Linville did a nice job running the team tonight,” Wolfe said. “They’ve earned the right to be on this stage.”
The 21-point run was punctuated by a late steal by Zurcher and fast-break feed to Stueve who rammed home a two-handed slam, sending the Panther student section into a frenzy.
NorthWood did not let up in the third quarter, increasing the margin to 54-25 as Wilkinson and Zurcher combined for 18 points on a perfect six-of-six from the field and six-of-six from the charity stripe.
Fairfield sophomore Joe Line refused to go quietly into the night, dropping in seven points in the period, but it was too little, too late for the Falcons. The final quarter was anticlimactic, as Wolfe began clearing the bench at the 6-minute mark, giving everyone on the roster a chance to play.
Wilkinson’s 16 points led four players in double figures for NorthWood, as Zurcher added 15, Stueve 11 and Farmwald 10 in the win.
The Panthers scorched the nets at a 64-percent clip.
Klem added seven points, six rebounds, and three steals. Line paced Fairfield with 10 points, followed by eight from Scott and seven from Rhodes.
Panthers Slam West Noble in Sectional opener
NorthWood 59, West Noble 40
In the sectional opener on Tuesday, Feb. 26, NorthWood avenged a regular-season loss by hammering the short-handed Chargers 59-40.
With four starters missing from the lineup (one due to injury and three as a result of unspecified violations of team rules), seldom-used West Noble bench players were forced into action and held their own for a half before eventually succumbing.
The Chargers actually bolted out to a 5-0 lead in the first minute as NorthWood missed its first five shots, but the Panthers settled down and rallied to lead 11-7 halfway through the quarter.
A thunderous slam dunk at the one minute mark by Wilkinson off a beautiful backdoor lob pass from Kyle McCoy got the Panther fans howling and boosted the lead to 15-11 after one quarter.
“Jon Wilkinson was the X-factor,” said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe. “He brought us energy and leadership when we needed it.”
West Noble continued to battle valiantly in the second quarter, primarily thanks to junior Phil Miller whose seven points kept his team alive.
The Charger zone defense also gave NorthWood problems but the lead gradually expanded and when Panther forward Klem drained a teardrop shot on the right baseline at the buzzer, NorthWood took a 30-23 lead to the locker room.
Both teams came out cold in the second half, combining for one field goal in the first three minutes of action, but Wilkinson then got hot and poured in eight points over the remainder of the quarter as NorthWood outscored West Noble 14-6 (allowing just one field goal) to take a 15-point lead to the final stanza.
Zurcher was also key for the Panthers, scoring six points including a rebound basket off his own miss at the buzzer.
The Panthers then promptly crushed any remaining Charger hopes by scoring the first seven points of the fourth period to take a 22-point lead, and emptied the bench in the process of cruising to the easy 59-40 win.
Wilkinson had a stellar game for NorthWood (15-6), scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and adding four assists and three steals.
Zurcher chipped in with 12 points and also grabbed seven rebounds, while Will Stueve added 11 points off the bench.
Miller’s 13 points paced the Chargers (15-6), whose once-promising season collapsed in disappointment with five losses in their last six games.
Seniors Nick Thomas and Armando Rosales added eight points each in defeat.
At Wawasee H.S., Sectional Championship

NorthWood 13 22 34 51
Tippy Valley 7 24 40 60

NORTHWOOD (59): Braxton Linville 0 0-0 0, Zach Zurcher 5 2-6 13, Tanner Farmwald 3 0-0 7, Tommy Klem 4 0-2 8, Kyle McCoy 0 2-2 2, Jonathan Wilkinson 7 4-5 21, Will Stueve 0 0-0 0 TOTALS 19 8-15 51

TIPPECANOE VALLEY (60): Alex Thacker 3 1-4 8, Jarred Littlejohn 0 0-0 0, Tanner Andrews 4 4-6 12, Jacob Ritchey 1 0-0 2, Chainey Zolman 7 0-0 18, Nick Kindig 6 5-6 20, Aaron Hoffman 0 0-0 0, Gavin Bussard 0 0-0 0, Derrick Cunningham 0 0-0 0, Ben Shriver 0 0-0 0, Chandler O’Connor 0 0-0 0 TOTALS 21 10-14 60

3-Point Goals: NorthWood 5 (Wilkinson 3, Zurcher, Farmwald); Tippecanoe Valley 8 (Zolman 4, Kindig 3, Thacker)

At Wawasee H.S., Sectional Game 2

Fairfield 5 9 25 41
NorthWood 12 33 54 71

NORTHWOOD (71): Braxton Linville 0 0-0 0, Zach Zurcher 5 4-4 15, Tanner Farmwald 4 0-0 10, Tommy Klem 3 1-3 7, Kyle McCoy 3 0-0 8, Gabe Williams 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Wilkinson 6 4-5 16, Travis Bear 0 1-2 1, Spencer Culp 0 0-0 0, Will Stueve 4 3-5 11, Cam Simpson 0 2-2 2, Dakiyron Fox 0 1-4 1 TOTALS 25 16-25 71

FAIRFIELD (41): Garrett Scott 4 0-0 8, Josh Stephens 2 1-2 5, Marcus Rhodes 3 0-0 7, Brock Goeglein 1 2-2 4, Mitch DeWitt 0 0-0 0, John Stack 1 0-0 2, Brad Lantz 0 2-2 2, Nate Miller 0 0-0 0, Joe Line 3 3-3 10, Thomas Martin 0 0-0 0, Clay Bontrager 0 0-0 0, Alex Miller 1 0-0 2 TOTALS 15 8-9 41

3-Point Goals: NorthWood 5 (Farmwald 2, McCoy 2, Zurcher); Fairfield 3 (Stephens, Rhodes, Line)

At Wawasee H.S., Sectional Game 1

NorthWood 15 30 44 59
West Noble 11 23 29 40

NORTHWOOD (59): Braxton Linville 0 0-0 0, Zach Zurcher 5 2-2 12, Tanner Farmwald 1 0-0 2, Tommy Klem 3 0-0 6, Kyle McCoy 1 4-4 6, Gabe Williams 1 0-0 2, Jonathan Wilkinson 6 6-9 20, Travis Bear 0 0-0 0, Spencer Culp 0 0-1 0, Will Stueve 4 3-4 11, Cam Simpson 0 0-0 0, Dakiyron Fox 0 0-0 0 TOTALS 21 15-20 59

WEST NOBLE (40): Grant Moser 0 0-0 0, Nick Thomas 3 1-3 8, Nik Risser 0 0-0 0, Brandon Moser 1 0-0 3, Phil Miller 4 3-4 13, David Ness 0 2-2 2, Johnny Miller 0 0-0 0, Landon Stover 1 4-6 6, Waylon Richardson 0 0-0 0, Drew Wiley 0 0-0 0, Kyler Warble 0 0-2 0, Armando Rosales 4 0-0 8 TOTALS 13 10-17 40

3-Point Goals: NorthWood 2 (Wilkinson 2); West Noble 4 (Phil Miller 2, Moser, Thomas)