Northview's Zach Keyes could make a career out of the Wabash Valley Classic Tournament. Some may say that he already has.
Keyes led the Knights in scoring on their way to four wins and the tourney title last year. He scored over 19 points a game off the bench for the Knights.
Unfortunately for Northview's opponents this year, he's now a starter.
Keyes rang up 30 points against a very solid Sullivan Golden Arrows squad and the Knights pulled away in the third quarter for a 62-44 opening round win. The victory sends the Knights into the winner's bracket versus Terre Haute North, an 81-45 winner over South Vermillion, today at 2:30 p.m.
The Arrows were obviously determined to make the Knights aware that they are for real this season as they trailed by only two at the halftime break.
But Northview has already played their fair share of close games this season and they used a 21-2 run in the third period to blow open the game and get the win.
"We were kind of sluggish early on," said coach Mitch Lancaster of his team. "I think maybe the earlier start time (1 p.m.) may have had something to do with that."
The Knights struggled from the field in the first half, hitting just 36 percent (10-of-28). Take away Keyes (five-of-nine) and Northview shot a frigid 26 percent. The Arrows shot better in the first half, (46 percent), but the Knights forced 17 first half turnovers from Sullivan to lead by a pair at the half.
Sullivan did a great job limiting high scoring Logan Whitman to eight first half points and 12 in the game, but Keyes was a force inside all game long. "He's just really hard to stop," commented Lancaster afterwards. "With his post-up ability and his head fakes and up-and-under moves it's tough to limit him."
Even with Keyes hitting for 12 in the first half, Sullivan came out ready to fight to the wire early in the second half.
The Golden Arrows' Jeffery Moore, who had 11 at the half, came out and hit two quick shots in the third quarter to put Sullivan up 31-28 less than a minute into the quarter. But then the Knights found their stroke.
Spurred by a furious defensive rush, the Knights held Sullivan to just one basket the remainder of the quarter while they pounded home a 21-2 run to close the period.
Much of that run can be contributed to the return of Josh Timm from a several game suspension.
Timm entered the game with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter and found his rhythm pretty quickly. He would contribute nine points to the team in the third stanza and 12 for the game in helping the Knights pull away in the third quarter. "Josh came in and really gave us a lift. He really turned what was a bad situation into something good," said Lancaster.
A 3-pointer from Timm and a hoop from Keyes gave the Knights a 19 point lead early in the fourth period that they would not relinquish. "This tournament is a great test for us. It won't be hard to get up for Terre Haute North tomorrow (Friday)."