It didn’t take much for Jeff Czerniakowski to evaluate his team’s first-quarter effort. In fact, he used a specific term to describe the Northview boys basketball team’s first eight minutes: soft.
That quickly changed. In a short amount of time, the Wildcats toughened up, and that fortitude propelled the Wildcats to a 63-51 win at home over Waite.
“Right at the start of the second quarter, we stopped playing soft and really turned it up on defense, to get steals and get easier baskets,” said Czerniakowski, who scored a team-high 18 points.
After trailing 14-11 in the first quarter of the nonleague game, Northview needed less than two minutes into the second quarter to erase that deficit. By the time Waite called its first time-out, less than halfway into the second, the Wildcats had taken a 20-14 lead, and continued to build on that, both offensively and defensively.
“We really focused on help defense in practice this week, to shut down the driving lanes and to force them to take outside shots,” Czerniakowski said.
Defensively, the Wildcats executed that plan in the second quarter, and Waite coach Adam Rodriguez cited those 8 minutes as the turning point of Saturday’s game.
“We played them even, and I think we beat them the other three quarters,” Rodriguez said. “But the second quarter was the difference-maker in the game.”
The Wildcats didn’t allow the Indians inside penetration and held the Indians to two field goals in the second: Taywyn Mason’s three-pointer and Lavarr Robinson’s bucket. Mason led the Indians with 20 points, but scored only six in the second and third quarters.
“They really pack it in and tried to maintain it so that we had to make jump shots to beat them,” Rodriguez said. “We tried to get in there, but they’re a pretty physical team. They’re not the tallest team, but they’re pretty bulky and athletic and their coach does a good job. They try to force you into making jump shots to beat them. We made a few tonight, but just not enough.”
Waite went 16 for 29 from the floor in the first and fourth quarters, but went 2 for 10 in the second and 3 for 14 in the third.
“We were our own worst enemy,” Rodriguez said. “We just threw the ball away and roughed some shots, and we were in a hurry to do nothing. We threw the ball away too many times. I don’t know how many turnovers we had, exactly, in the second quarter, but it was probably 10 to 12.”
Czerniakowski scored 10 points and Connor Hartnett and Deon Valentine each added five in a second quarter in which the Wildcats outscored the Indians 28-5. Hartnett added 16 points.
“Driving and getting to the basket, and getting my teammates involved in the offense, that gave me more opportunities later in the game,” said Czerniakowski, whose team led 39-19 at halftime. “We tried to slow their game down and make them settle for outside shots.
“We just used our defense to turn it into good offense, getting steals and forcing them to rush shots, in order for us to get easier looks in the offensive end.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at:email@example.com,419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.