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December 27, 2013

Terre Haute North uses offense to advance to WVC semifinals

TERRE HAUTE — For the first seven games of their 2013-2014 high school basketball season, Terre Haute North’s boys had been known — even during a couple of one-sided losses — for their hard-nosed defensive efforts.

On Friday afternoon at the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic, the host Patriots won one with their offense.

Raining home five 3-pointers, North sped to a 13-point lead after a quarter against a formidable Owen Valley team in the second quarterfinal game of the winners’ bracket and pulled away to a 64-48 win, assuring coach Todd Woelfle’s inexperienced bunch of a top-four finish after a fifth-place showing with a veteran squad a year ago.

“I thought we had a really good first half on the offensive end,” Woelfle said afterward. “We shot the ball extremely well, and I feel that’s because we were taking high-percentge shots.”

North had a 7-0 lead after two minutes. A pair of 3-pointers by Ethan Sparks of the visiting Patriots got Owen Valley within 9-6 and it was still within five at 17-12, but then North caught fire again, getting six straight points from Austin Kurashima, then a 3-pointer by Charlie Aimone with 3.5 seconds left to make it 26-13 at the first stop.

“Really hot,” was how coach Chad Smith of Owen Valley described North’s start. “It would’ve been pretty easy to cave right there, but we fought back and made it a closer game than the [final] score indicated.”

The visitors did indeed do that, getting within 30-24 early in the second period after another Sparks 3-pointer, and it was still 37-30 late in the period. Aimone drove for a layup that proved to be the last points of that quarter as well — there’s a pattern developing here — although North might have scored again if its first turnover of the game hadn’t occurred with 30 seconds left before intermission. North finished the game with just six errors, Owen Valley with only nine.

North got its lead into double figures early in the third quarter when Kurashima and Keshaun Sandifer scored consecutive baskets for a 47-35 score, and Owen Valley suffered from a series of events at the end of the quarter. A three-point play by Andrew Farmer increased North’s lead to 52-41, Owen Valley missed a pair of free throws, and Aimone — again — scored in the final seconds of the period, this time on an offensive rebound for a 13-point North lead.

“Very important,” the 6-foot-6 junior said afterward about getting the last points of a quarter. “That puts the momentum in our favor.”

Also significant about the third-quarter ending is that it came on an Aimone rebound. Playing against a team of other slender leapers, Aimone had a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with 15 points. “I just had to match the other team’s physicality … and find the right man to block out,” he explained.

Kurashima led North with a game-high 18 points, while Sandifer scored 12.

Evan Wood led Owen Valley with 15, while Sparks finished with 12. Sparks’ fourth 3-pointer, followed by another from Wood, cut a 16-point lead to 57-47 early in the fourth quarter and Owen Valley had several chances to get closer but never did.

“We had a couple of decent shots, we just didn’t get them to fall,” Smith said of that time in the game, “and [North’s Patriots] realzied we were ready to make a run and went to their spread [offense]. They did a good job making us foul, icing [the game] away the way you should.”

“I was pleased with the way we finished the game in the fourth quarter,” Woelfle agreed. “I was really not pleased with the effort on the defensive end, but we did get key stops when we needed them.”

Owen Valley, Woelfle agreed, is also a hard team to guard, even with sophomore standout Cameron King slowed by an ankle injury.

“I thought they were one of the better teams in the tournament,” Woelfle said.

Now the bracket confirms that North is one of the better teams in the tournament too, and Aimone has hopes that his team will keep proving that.

“I think momentum is in our favor and we have a great chance going into [today’s semifinal game vs.] Northview,” he said. “We’ll see what happens … I’m extremely happy [with how we’re playing].”

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High School
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