HUBER HEIGHTS — In a tightly contest game Wayne guard Malcolm Curry came up with three consecutive steals at the start of the fourth quarter.
Curry took the first two steals in for dunks and on the third steal he dished to Brendan Hill who also scored a dunk to boost the Warriors’ lead to 36-26 with 6:33 remaining.
“Malcolm has been playing better each and every game for us,” said Wayne coach Nathan Martindale. “We are young and sometimes that shows up a little bit because you have to bring it each and every night in the GWOC. It’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter what the records are and I think you saw that tonight.”
From there Wayne managed to hold on to secure a hard fought 49-45 victory over a scrappy Northmont team that stayed on the Warrior heels until the final buzzer.
A young Warriors lineup struggled offensively hitting only hit two of 15 shots from three-point range, well below its 36 percent thus far this season.
Despite trailing by 10 Northmont refused to roll over and die. Senior forward Trent Freeman scored eight points in the final quarter and finished the night with 12. He sat out the first half and could have had a bigger impact in the game’s outcome.
Freeman hit a pair of free throws and Jordan Smith blocked a shot inside. Freeman followed with a basket to cut the deficit to six points. Elijah Brown countered with a jump shot in the lane for Wayne.
Smith answered with a basket for the Thunderbolts. Ben Palma scored inside for Wayne and Patrick Ivory buried a three-pointer for Northmont to narrow the gap to 40-35.
After a Northmont turnover Hill scored another dunk to whip the Wayne fans into a frenzy to boost the Warriors’ lead to 43-35.
Smith sank a pair of free throws and down the stretch the Thunderbolts got baskets by Freeman, Ivory and Smith. It wasn’t enough as Wayne got baskets by Hill and Lankford and Cam Fancher sank a pair of free throws as the Warriors hung on for the four point victory.
“Wayne is a very good basketball team. We practiced all week against their one-three-one half court defense, but they rattled us for three turnovers in a row that turned into three dunks,” said Northmont coach Shane Kincer. “We responded, but we could never get back even. I told the kids in the locker room that I was really proud with how hard they played and their effort. If they give us that effort each time we have a chance to win the next 15 games.”
With the victory Wayne extends it win streak to three game and improves to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Northmont falls to 1-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play with its sixth consecutive loss.
“I thought Northmont did a really nice job,” Martindale added. “They made some nice adjustments and played with some young kids. We also have a young team. We don’t have any seniors in our starting lineup. I thought our kids showed some resiliency down the stretch, but it wasn’t one of our prettier games. We got good looks, but we just didn’t knock shots down.”
Northmont hopes to get back in the win column Jan. 7 at Lebanon, which is also 1-6 overall.
“We had two kids play in their first varsity game tonight and they played a lot of minutes,” Kincer added. “Jalen Coffey played really well starting at point guard and Todd Gregory started the JV game and because of some circumstances we also decided to start him in the varsity game. He played three quarters and he competed, so he will continue to find himself in the rotation.”
NMT 10 16 26 45 – 45
WAY 11 24 28 49 – 49
Northmont: Markus Allen 1-0-2, Patrick Ivory 4-1-10, Jordan Smith 6-2-14, Trent Freeman 5-2-12, Stephen Kellum 1-1-3, Max Scott III 1-0-2, Landon McClaskey 1-0-2. Totals: 19-6-45.
Wayne: Cam Fancher 2-4-10, Brendan Hill 3-1-7, Malcolm Curry 6-0-12, Jahrod Lankford 1-0-2, Elijah Brown 3-1-7, Ben Palma 2-0-4, Jalen Orwig 1-1-3, Lawrent Rice 2-0-4. Totals: 20-7-49.
Three-point goals: Northmont 1 (Ivory); Wayne 2 (Fancher 2).
Records: Northmont 1-6 (1-2), Wayne 7-2 (4-1).
JV Score: Wayne 50 Northmont 45.
Ron Nunnari can be reached at 684-9124, via email at Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @NunnariRon