Norwell coach Mike McBride is always reticent when it comes to talking up his son – freshman Luke.
But following Saturday’s sectional-clinching 46-43 victory over Mississinewa, Mike had to.
Luke’s 14 points were not just a game high, but he also showed the grit, tenacity and court prowess rarely seen in a freshman.
“I don’t usually talk about Luke,” Coach McBride said. “But he pretty much carried us a lot of that second half.”
The best part for Coach McBride? His son wasn’t the only one. With star senior Will Geiger battling foul trouble in the first half and finishing the game with just nine points, it was other Knights who stepped up big to help capture the program’s first sectional crown since 2014.
“To get nine points from Will Geiger and say we were going to win a sectional championship, I would have probably said you were crazy,” Coach Mike McBride said. “We had some young kids that stepped up – some freshman who played incredible. We had different guys that needed to rise up and they were able to do that.”
Luke McBride wasn’t alone in making a difference. Senior Conner Torson’s two free throws with 93 seconds left put Norwell up by six. Freshman Lleyton Bailey had a three-pointer and two assists that were massive.
And then there was Eli Riley. The junior used to throwing to wide receivers laying out for catches on the football field came up big with his hand in the clutch.
With Mississinewa (19-5) down three in the closing seconds, Norwell had a foul to give as it battled confusion on the defensive end. Luke McBride’s smart decision to foul the Indians got a whistle. Once the Knights were able to set up their defense before the ball was put in play, Coach McBride felt like his team was in a good spot.
Riley and the Knights knew that the Indians would try to spring junior Landen Swanner on the perimeter with a good look. Riley closed out quickly and blocked the shot attempt, clinching Norwell’s three-point win.
“We knew they didn’t have a timeout, so we worked on these types of things and situations,” Mike McBride said. “We just wanted everyone tight. We told Eli not to foul. They didn’t have a lot of options with time running out and Eli got a piece of it.”
Misssissinewa’s quickness could have given Norwell (22-2) trouble. In fact, it did at times as the Indians pushed the dribble drive in an effort to get points around the hoop. But the Knights’ regular-season schedule against the likes of Mishawaka Marian, South Side and others, teams that play a similar style, prepped Norwell for what it needed to do to beat a team desperate for its first sectional championship in 66 years.
“Mississinewa was quick and athletic and if we were not playing some of the teams we do, we maybe wouldn’t be able to handle that,” Coach Mike McBride said.
Geiger was visibly emotional in post-game, battling tears as he shared hugs in his final game on Norwell’s court. For him, watching his teammates deliver when he couldn’t (Geiger spent the entirety of the second quarter on the bench) was just as fulfilling as if he had dropped 40 points.
“My teammates covered my butt last time we played Mississinewa (on Dec. 3),” Geiger said. “I am super proud of them and super thankful for them too.”