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December 28, 2013

Terre Haute North secures semifinal win over Northview

Patriots shoot well from free-throw line

TERRE HAUTE — The Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic had its first tournament feel Saturday night in the first semifinal game, as Northview and host Terre Haute North battled for a spot in Monday’s championship game.

And after a scintillating first half that included seven lead changes and plenty of emotion, North took advantage of Northview’s foul problems in the second half to pull away for a 54-43 win.

Neither team shot well, particularly in the last two quarters that included just four field goals each on 28 shots (Northview 4 for 17, North 4 for 11). But the Patriots hit 20 of 24 from the foul line for the game, 13 of 14 in the final quarter.

“We haven’t been shooting well from the foul line,” coach Todd Woelfle of North said after the game. “It was nice to see that in a pressure game like this.”

“We’ve had trouble at the free throw line,” agreed Austin Kurashima, North’s leading scorer with 16 points. “To shoot like that was really helpful to our team tonight.”

From the Northview perspective, North’s free throws weren’t quite as important as who put them on the line.

Ethan Whitson, who looked unguardable at times in the first half, picked up his first two fouls midway through the first quarter, with the Knights holding a four-poimt lead, the added his third and fourth in the first three minutes and 10 seconds of the second half.

Although the 6-foot-6 senior still led the Knights with 16 points, he was unavailable throughout most of the rest of the third quarter, and that’s when the Patriots went ahead for good.

Whitson’s fourth foul sent Kurashima to the line for two free throws that tied the game at 29. Christian Ellis hit one of two at the line to give Northview its last lead with 3:16 left in the third period, but two more free throws by Kurashima and a driving layup for a three-point play by Andrew Farmer had North ahead 34-30 at the third stop — its first lead of more than two points.

A rebound basket by Keshaun Sandifer and a 3-pointer by Charlie Aimone put the home team ahead 39-30 early in the fourth quarter, and the Knights were in trouble. Although they cut the lead to five points twice, at 41-36 and 43-38, they were unable to guard North’s spread offense without sending the Patriots — usually Farmer, who hit six in a row in the fourth quarter — to the line.

Northview, which had lost decisively to the Patriots in its second game of the year, showed early Saturday that it was a different team.

After North scored first, the Knights went ahead 7-2 on a 3-pointer and two free throws by Whitson and a rebound basket by Ellis.

The first Whitson foul in the second quarter enabled the Patriots to get within 21-17 and started an 8-2 run that put North back on top momentarily.

But Northview’s 6-6 Jim Mace took up the slack for Whitson in that quarter, scoring eight points — including Northview’s last six — as the Knights led 27-26 at intermission.

“Northview had an excellent game plan,” Woelfle said after the game. “They weren’t going to let us drive the basketball.”

“The first half we let the ball in the paint [defensively] too much and we had too many fouls,” Kurashima said. “In the second half we got more pressure on the ball, especially with our full-court press ... we took better shots and stayed more calm under pressure.”

“I was very proud of our young men and how they executed defensively,” coach Clint Weddle of the Knights said. “Our kids have got a little bit more experience [since the first game against North], and they practice so consistently that that’s helped us improve.”

Mace added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds for Northview, while Farmer scored 12 and Aimone 10 for the Patriots. Aimone and Sandifer shared North rebound honors with seven each.

Although Weddle was probably not thrilled with some of the calls against his big man, he made sure not to use that as an excuse afterward.

“There are going to be times when we don’t have [certain] guys on the floor,” he said, “and one man doesn’t define your team. This game will help our guys realize that across the board.”

The Patriots now advance to the championship game with a virtually new roster, which might have been a surprise when the season started.

“We played to our strengths and got the job done,” Kurashima concluded.

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