Times Sports Editor
As far as debut games go, new Northview head coach Ernie Maesch couldn't have asked for a more thrilling opener.
In Friday's season tip-off, the Knights built as much as a 10-point second half lead and held off a furious Terre Haute North rally in the final few minutes to score a 57-53 win.
"I'm so proud of these kids," said Maesch afterwards. "We had to battle and I told the kids that I wanted us to be a physical team."
The Knights proved to be just that against a Patriots' team that had a considerable size advantage in the post with 6'6 Thomas Anderson and 6'8 Justin Gant patrolling the lane.
Northview countered with 6'3 Jonathan Bradshaw, who scored eight of his 13 points in the first half.
"Austin (Akers) did a heck of a job making our big guys better," said Maesch of his senior guard's multiple drives and looks inside to the post.
Both teams came out firing from the perimeter with the Patriots hitting three of his four 3-pointers in the first half. Northview got one apiece from Akers and Trent Lancaster and Clint Reynolds added another to give the Knights a halftime lead at 28-24.
The Patriots got 14 of their points from their front court duo before the break.
In the second half, the Knights slowly built a lead behind their guard play.
Both Akers and Lancaster made a point of getting to the basket and drawing fouls while finishing.
Bradshaw scored off a no-look assist from Akers to give Northview a 32-30 lead and a steal by the Knights led to a three-point play by Akers. After a jumper by North's Scott Weatherford, Northview got back-to-back three-point plays from Lancaster and Akers.
The second pushed the Knights' lead to 41-36 late in the third quarter.
The Knights continued to surge opening the fourth period behind a bucket from Jacob Musgrave. A North turnover then set up a momentum building 3-pointer from Akers, who had a game-high 19 points.
Now leading 48-38, with 6:39 remaining in the game, the Knights suddenly went cold form the field and the Patriots came roaring to life..
Anderson scored off a rebound of a missed free throw by Gant and his put back kicked off a quick 6-0 run by the Patriots.
Justin Gant knocked down a 3-pointer and the Patriots were right back in the thick of things, trailing 51-49.
With four of their starters playing nearly all 28 or so of the minutes to that point, the Knights were looking a tad tired understandably. However, Northview reached deep as Akers got to the line for a pair of free throws and a 53-49 lead with 3:40 left in the game.
Lancaster stole the ball on the defensive end and cruised in for a 55-49 lead off the break with just 2:15 left.
"We had to use delays and timeouts to give us some breaks," admitted Maesch. "We had some guys come off the bench and give us some great minutes and they did a good job and held things together."
The Patriots really exerted themselves on the offensive glass in the final quarter, doubling the Knights rebounding total. That fact enabled Gant to get to the line for a pair of free throws and Daniel Gabbard hit one of his own to close the gap to 55-52.
Northview had a couple of shots to close the game out from the line, but came up short by missing five-of-six free throws over a 57 second span.
Akers hit one-of-two free throws to match Harrison to push the score to 56-53. With just 22 seconds remaining, Akers went to the free throw line and kept the door open by missing both shots.
The Patriots came down the floor and set up a screen for Harrison beyond the 3-point line with 14 seconds left. The shot missed and the rebound went to Chase Jones, who also missed a perimeter shot. North got another rebound and missed twice more in the paint before Musgrave grabbed a board for the Knights with 3.8 ticks left.
Musgrave missed the first shot from the charity stripe before clinching the game by hitting the second.
The Knights hop on the bus to head to Brown County for a boys and girls doubleheader tonight that follows the JV games, which begin at 2 p.m.
In the JV game, Caleb Mershon scored 27 points, Hunter Robertson dropped home 12 points and Nathan Smith had seven in a 55-52 overtime victory over the Patriots.
T.H. North (53)
Jones 0-4 0-0 0, Harrison 5-12 1-2 15, Weatherford 2-3 0-0 4, Anderson 6-15 1-4 15, Gant 6-12 2-4 13, Gabbard 1-2 3-4 6, Gauer 0-3 0-0 0, Thompson 0-2 0-0 0, Spensler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-53 7-14 53.
Akers 4-12 7-10 19, Lancaster 5-10 3-6 14, Reynolds 2-5 0-0 6, Bradshaw 6-8 1-2 13, Musgrave 1-3 1-2 3, Wilson 1-1 0-0 2, Keller 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Tanner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-39 12-20 57.
3-point fieldgoals -- THN 6-18 (Harrison 4-11, Jones 0-1, Anderson 0-3, Gabbard 1-1, Thompson 0-1, Gant 1-1). Total Rebounds -- THN 29 (Gant 9, Anderson 7), Nv 28 (Bradshaw 9). Total Fouls -- THN 17, Nv 15. Turnovers -- THN 7, Nv 8.