By Mark Saluke, Kokomo Tribune
It was a see-saw battle that took a dizzying toll on the scoreboard, but one that saw Northwestern’s boys basketball team hang with Frankfort through 15 lead changes and 16 ties before the Purple Tigers pulled away when it mattered most for a 66-57 home finale win on Senior night Saturday.
A game that could have easily gone either way over the first three and a half quarters went the way of Northwestern over the final 4:00 after junior Collin Hodson caught fire to score 10 of the Tigers’ first 14 fourth-quarter points. Hodson capped a 14-9 run with six straight points on a hoop-and-harm that gave Northwestern the 15th and final lead change of the night at 53-50, following it with another triple to match the Tigers’ biggest lead up to that point at 56-51.
Northwestern (7-10) knocked down 10 of 12 free throws the rest of the way to pull away for the victory.
“It was nice to have everybody back and step up,” Northwestern coach Jim Gish said. “We haven’t had a whole team since about game five this year. We haven’t had everybody healthy and we’re still not healthy but at least we have everybody back now.”
Hodson netted 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, which was symbolic of Northwestern’s play throughout the game as it was a different offensive hero showing up each quarter as Frankfort (7-12) was left to guess which Tiger to chase.
In the first quarter, it was Trey Richmond inside as he netted six of his eight points over the first eight minutes as Northwestern went up 15-13. Then it was senior Quinlan Armstrong finding his rhythm in the second quarter, scoring eight of his 12 points in the period, knocking down a pair of timely 3s in a half where neither squad could grab a lead greater than three points as Northwestern took a 29-26 advantage into the locker room.
And in the third frame, it was senior Austin Miller who came out on fire, scoring eight of his team-high 20 points in a quarter where the Tigers took the game’s biggest lead up to that point at 38-33 before the Hot Dogs battled back to knot it at 42-all heading to the fourth.
“This is a true team. They don’t play for themselves,” Gish said. “They play for each other. They’ve battled through a lot of adversity and you saw that they’ll play hard all the time. I’m very proud of the seniors, it’s their night, it’s the last time they get to play on their home floor and they have a lot to be proud of.”
And it wasn’t just Miller, Armstrong and fellow senior Jason Smith who made things happen as the Tigers got a complete effort with 11 players logging minutes.
“I thought the guys from the bench really stepped up and did a nice job for us,” Gish said. “Nathan Ward hits a big 3, Thomas Crocker hits a baseline jumper, we have a lot of guys that can shoot the ball and play their roles very, very well.”