BOUNCE: Northrop puts late-season struggles in rearview with run to sectional title

BounceInset_2When Bounce was making his sectional predictions, Northrop just didn’t feel right.

Losers of four of their last five regular-season games, the Bruins looked lost. They looked dispassionate against Carroll. They played tentative against Bishop Dwenger.

Outside of the program, Northrop looked the part of a team that was going to be a quick out in sectional with a Tuesday showdown with Carroll.

But insiders with the program knew different. Following the 62-49 loss to Bishop Dwenger on Feb. 15, the Bruins called a players-only meeting.

In that meeting behind closed doors, senior Syd Curry took over. Despite being with the program for just one year, the Bruins star became the leader the program needed.

“Syd went in and said, ‘Whatever bickering we got, it needs to stop before we leave this room,'” said Northrop coach Rod Chamble. “Guys argued and Syd said, ‘Hey, it’s over.’ Then he introduced himself. All the kids started over. They explained why they were there and everybody started laughing.

“Since that point, the practices got more focused and we started running the game plans. That changed it for us, it got us kind of going.”

That one simple meeting changed the trajectory of Northrop’s season. Instead of fading quietly into the offseason, the Bruins ran off three wins at DeKalb, climaxing with a 77-66 victory over East Noble on Saturday to capture the program’s first sectional crown since 2013.

Northrop (16-8) advances to the Logansport Regional, where it will take on Class 4A No. 1 Carmel (22-1) at 10 a.m. next Saturday.

Senior Isaac Anderson led all scorers with 33 points, shouldering the scoring load when Curry missed significant time due to foul trouble. Following Saturday’s win, he vividly recalled the post-Dwenger meeting.

Northrop’s Khamani Smith cuts himself a piece of the net after the Bruins knocked off East Noble 77-66 to win the DeKalb Sectional on Saturday.

“We said something had to change,” Anderson said. “We knew we should have never lost to (the Saints). We had to play unselfish ball. It starts at the defensive end. If we play good defense, we are going to win.”

Anderson’s complete effort on both ends of the floor (six rebounds, five assists, four steals) keyed Northrop’s title game win over the Knights. When Curry was relegated to the bench for the entirety of the second quarter due to foul trouble, Anderson repeatedly attacked the basket. When he wasn’t finishing with layups, he was finding Khamani Smith for open threes.

A similar situation transpired after Curry fouled out early in the fourth on a technical foul. Once again, it was Anderson, Smith (17 points) and Qualen Pettus (15 points) who shined in the big man’s absence.

“Those guys have played a supporting role all year,” Chamble said. “For them to finally get a little bit of light and have to carry Syd, that was big. It was big for our program.

“When Syd fouled out, Isaac and Pettus went over to him and said, ‘Hey, we got this. Don’t worry about it.’ At the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t have done that.”

Adversity can destroy a team or it can bring it closer together. The last few years saw the Bruins struggle when things got tough, both on the floor and in the locker room. But this season has been different. It is an attribute that grew stronger when the team was at a crossroads just a week ago, something Bounce did not anticipate.

“This is a different unit. Everybody loves the game, and everybody wants to win.”

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH.



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