Times Sports Editor
TERRE HAUTE -- The Northview Knights got off to a strong start in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic on Monday afternoon and their depth ultimately was a key factor in defeating Shakamak in the opening round, 60-41.
The Knights jumped out quickly with a smaller lineup, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Caleb Mershon and six first quarter points from 6'4 Jacob Ninesling. However, the Lakers battled back to within 14-10 to end the opening period.
"We just couldn't get anything going, we got up 9-2 and started playing slow and we just started playing with no discipline and no rebounding, turning the ball over," Knights' coach Ernie Maesch said. "We wore them down a little bit I thought. They only have five or six kids playing and we were trying to play eight, nine, 10 and I thought that might make a difference."
Indeed, Maesch knows what it is like to struggle with a lack of depth as injuries left Northview in the same sort of lurch last season. However, this season the Knights have had the luxury of some experience coming off the bench and it paid off handsomely in the second half.
Shakamak had pulled within 23-20 at halftime as 6'7 junior Justin Crody had nearly equaled his season high of 11 points by the midway point. Crody showed a nice touch around the rim and with the Knights using a smaller lineup without the services of an injured Jacob Musgrave, the Lakers' center tallied 10 points and five boards before half.
Despite Crody's success, the Knights had severely limited the Lakers' two leading scorers as Brodie Crowe (17.3 ppg.) and Brock Dowell (15.3 ppg.) had been held to a combined four points.
The Knights' own leading scorer, Trent Lancaster, had also been held in check with just one point, but Ninesling countered with of his season-high 14 points.
In the second half, Northview opened with a score by Lancaster on a drive to the front of the rim before Crody responded for the Lakers. From there, however, the Knights began to gain some separating as Damon Hyatt started a 9-0 run that included a 3-pointer from Lancaster, a bucket by Ninesling and two free throws by Dillon Reynolds.
"We went to a smaller lineup in the second half to penetrate their zone instead of just standing and passing. When you have a 6'7 kid guarding the goal, sometimes standing and passing doesn't work," Maesch said. "So we started spreading it out and driving it and we got it in there to the sweet spot and got (Shakamak) to commit up and we could throw under."
"(Jacob Ninesling) and Chance (Talbot) got some easy buckets in there. I told them after the game that, 'it's the guys that can get the ball to the middle and give it to you that can pad your stats.'"
The Knights were making a living on driving deep into the lane and making the extra pass to the baseline for a lay-up and Hyatt scored off a feed from Reynolds for a 40-26 lead. Dowell nailed a 3-pointer late in the quarter, but Lancaster hit a clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer to boost the Knights' lead back to 45-31.
In the fourth quarter, Talbot continued to add to his stat totals with three more lay-ups and Lancaster capped a 16-point game by scoring seven in the final period of the victory.
Afterwards, Maesch was happy to advance into the winner's bracket into a 2:30 p.m. game against Monrovia, which won 68-54 over Turkey Run.
"We just wanted to survive in there, the first game is tough to win," Maesch said. "I just wanted to get out with a win."
Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic
At Terre Haute South
Hyatt 3-3 0-0 6, Lancaster 5-10 4-6 16, Mershon 3-8 0-0 8, Talbot 4-4 2-2 10, Ninesling 6-10 2-2 14, Reynolds 0-2 2-2 2, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0, Hull 0-1 0-0 0, Pestoff 1-1 0-2 2, Rohr 0-0 0-0 0, Whitson 0-0 0-0 0, Peters 1-1 0-0 2, King 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-40 10-14 60.
Dowell 3-12 2-2 9, Crowe 2-12 0-0 4, Schubla 0-2 0-0 0, Green 3-3 2-2 8, Crody 10-17 0-3 20, Batchelor 0-2 0-0 0, Schlomer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-49 4-7 41.
3-point fieldgoals -- Nv 4-11 (Mershon 2-5, Lancaster 2-5, Reynolds 0-1), SH 1-11 (Dowell 1-5, Crowe 0-5, Schubla 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Nv 23 (Lancaster 6, Ninesling 5), SH 24 (Crody 12). Total Fouls -- Nv 9, SH 11. Turnovers -- Nv 12, SH 11.