CLAYTON — Northmont got off to another slow start Friday, a trend for the team of late, allowing Springboro to go on a 9-0 run to open the game.
“All in all it was a good night,” said Northmont Coach Collin Abels. “If I had to be nitpicky and disappointed I felt we started both halves a little slow. We let them get out to a big lead early.”
After the Thunderbolts called a timeout at the 5:48 mark Northmont regrouped and trailed by only four, 15-11 by quarter’s end.
Rodney Richardson, who scored a game-high 26 points, and Christian Wilson both buried a trey in the second quarter as the Thunderbolts took a 32-28 lead by halftime. Northmont would eventually post a 70-61 victory, but not without a fight from a Panthers team that fought hard the entire game.
The last time the two teams met on January 11 Springboro was without the services of senior guard Alec Holtrey who has missed all but two games this season due to injury. Northmont posted a 78-58 in that game.
“Springboro’s top players are as good as anybody’s and for them to get one of their starters, and kind of their engine back, that helped them,” Abels said.
Nick Pluta, a 6-foot, 6-inch forward, did most of the damage Friday. Pluta scored 20 points and Christian James, a 5-foot, 10-inch guard had 14 while Garrett Powell tossed in 10 to lead the Springboro attack.
The turning point in the game came in the second quarter when Anthony Dorsey scored inside to tie it at 21-21. On Springboro’s ensuing possession Christian Wilson came up with a steal at midcourt near the home sideline. Wilson, a 6-foot guard, raced to the hoop and slam-dunked the ball to send the fans into a wild frenzy. Several fans threw themselves onto the floor on their backs or stood on the edge of playing floor in celebration. The officials had to call timeout to restore order as a pop bottle wound up in the middle of the playing floor when one of the fans accidently kicked it onto the court as he jumped out of his seat after Wilson’s dunk.
When play resumed in the third quarter the Panthers fought back from a four point deficit with a 7-0 run to take a 35-32 lead. Richardson buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 35. Late in the quarter Jabari Perkins buried a trey to give the Thunderbolts a 49-45 advantage entering the final period.
Northmont led by as many as 10 points in the final eight minutes of play but Springboro cut the lead to 65-59 when Pluta buried a 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining. But that was as close as the Panthers could get as Northmont went on to post a nine point victory.
“I am tickled for Rodney Richardson and just happy for all of our senior players,” Abels added. “We won the division championship outright and completed an undefeated season at home. I tell the guys all the time, ‘If you win all your games at home you are going to be a good basketball team.’ The dunk by Wilson kind of energized us. The way we started each half and we didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line, these guys always find a way to get it done and it is a different guy every night. One night it’s Rodney, the next night it’s defense and the next night it’s Christian. It kind of just goes down the line.”
Abels said he wasn’t sure why his team has been getting off to slow starts of late and that it is just something that will have to be addressed and fixed.
“We will talk about that and try to get that corrected because you are absolutely right. You don’t want to go into a tournament game and start out down 9-2 or 11-2 or something like that,” Abels said. “It was a great night and it couldn’t be a more fitting end than to take those five seniors off the floor to a standing ovation and let the other three seniors finish out the last 30 seconds on the floor. They are a great group, great families and it has been an absolute blast to coach them. I told them that I hope to keep this going for a while. I don’t want it to end.”
SPR 15 28 45 61 – 61
NMT 11 32 49 70 – 70
Springboro: Christian James 14, Nick Pluta 20, Kaleb Tabor 4, Zac Lavin 2, Alec Holtrey 6, Conner Grevey 3, Garrett Powell 10, Michael Berner 2. Totals: 23-9-61.
Northmont: Anthony Dorsey 6, Jabari Perkins 6, Rodney Richardson 23, Christian Wilson 8, Vinson Walker 4, Arius Spears 8, Donavin Wallace 7, DaLonte Capers 8. Totals: 23-20-70.
3-point goals: Springboro 6 (James 3, Pluta 2, Grevey); Northmont 4 (Richardson 2, Perkins, Wilson).
Records: Springboro 11-9 (4-6), Northmont 16-4 (8-2).
JV Score: Northmont 71 Springboro 64.
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind