Panthers trump Lions, 82-66

BREMEN — Playing behind in the post defensively left Bremen’s boys basketball team playing from behind on the scoreboard Friday.
Visiting NorthWood’s trio of 6-foot-5 juniors — Jonathan Wilkinson, Zach Zurcher, and Will Stueve — all easily reached double figures and the Panthers nailed a sizzling 63 percent from the field in an 82-66 victory over the Lions.
“We’ve played against some really good players this week, and Wilkinson and Zurcher are both very good players,” Bremen head coach Ryan Eakins said. “We can’t play behind in the post against guys who can score possession after possession; you’d think it would ring a bell. We got hurt in transition. In the first half we ran back in the paint and were out of position a number of times.
“Defensively, it came down to pride,” he continued. “NorthWood was the tougher team. This is the first time this year on our home floor that I didn’t think we were the tougher team.”
The Panthers knocked down 34-of-54 tries from the field, hitting better than 56 percent each quarter. Junior guard Kyle McCoy’s first-quarter buzzer-beating triple off a dish from Wilkinson put NorthWood up 19-18, a lead it maintained the rest of the way.
“I thought everyone did a great job getting high-percentage shots,” NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe said. “Every one of our players shot at least 50 percent, which is a rarity.
“The length of our players has been beneficial all year,” he added. “Tonight I think it was helpful.”
Meanwhile, Bremen senior Ethan Pike scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter. Classmate Jacob Box chipped in 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists for the Lions.
“When you score 66 points against an NLC team you’re doing something right,” Eakins said. “Jacob and Ethan both scored the basketball. In the second half I thought our offensive execution was good.”
Stueve scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the first half as the Panthers built a 38-29 halftime edge. He also pulled down six rebounds and converted one of his two steals into a breakaway jam in the opening frame.
“Will Stueve is building momentum,” Wolfe said. “He is starting to become a consistent varsity player. He causes problems for other teams.”
Wilkinson amassed 19 points and seven assists, and Zurcher contributed 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists. That duo led the Panthers on a 17-7 run over the final 3:26 of the third stanza to open a 20-point advantage, the largest of the evening.
“I think we had 23 assists tonight as a team, which might be a team high,” Wolfe said. “Jonathan Wilkinson had seven assists to just one turnover. That is a phenomenal all-around game.”
Also for Bremen, Kai Slough chipped in 10 points, and freshman Ryan Topper totaled four points, three rebounds, and an assist.
And while Eakins saw bright spots offensively, defense dominated his post-game thoughts.
“We have to be able to defend if we want to win the next couple weeks and into March,” Eakins said. “We’re not always going to get 30 from Ethan and 20 from Jacob. We’re going to have to be able to win a 45-43 game. We’re going to have to sit down and play defense when we’re tired. If we can get to the point where we recognize what we need to do defensively and put it together with our offense, we’ll be a very good team.”
Bremen hosts Mishawaka Marian Tuesday, while NorthWood hosts Whitko Friday.
At Bremen
Score by quarters
NorthWood: 19 38 63 82
Bremen: 18 29 43 66
NORTHWOOD (82): Braxton Linville 1 0-0 3, Zach Zurcher 7 1-1 15, Tanner Farmwald 3 2-2 9, Tommy Klem 3 0-0 7, Kyle McCoy 2 0-0 5, Jonathan Wilkinson 8 1-3 19, Travis Bear 0 0-0 0, Spencer Culp 0 0-0 0, Will Stueve 9 4-7 22, Cam Simpson 1 0-0 2, Nick Graber 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 34 8-13 82
BREMEN (66): Alex Lowe 0 0-0 0, Don Browning 1 2-2 4, Ryan Topper 2 0-0 4, Reid Zellmer 0 0-0 0, Ethan Pike 8 9-10 29, Jacob Box 6 6-9 19, Sam Lacher 0 0-0 0, Austin Adams 0 0-0 0, Phoenix Ricketts 0 0-0 0, Kai Slough 4 0-0 10, Dillon Mullen 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21 17-21 66.
3-point goals: NorthWood 6 (Wilkinson 2, McCoy, Farmwald, Linville, Klem), Bremen 7 (Pike 4, Slough 2, Box); Turnovers: NorthWood 11, Bremen 11; Rebounds: NorthWood 30 (Stueve 6), Bremen 22 (Box 6); Assists: NorthWood 23 (Wilkinson 7), Bremen 6 (Box 4); Steals: NorthWood 6, Bremen 5; Fouls (fouled out): NorthWood 16 (none), Bremen 14 (none); Records: NorthWood 13-6, Bremen 9-9.