By Eric Ingles
Democrat Sports Reporter
The Northwest Mustangs beat La Monte 64-50 on Friday at the W-K Shootout thanks in part to an 11-0 run to close the third quarter.
The teams were tied 27-27 at half and traded baskets early in the third before a Cortlen Austin 3-point play and baskets in the paint from Truman Leicher, Ryan Raferty and Trey Green helped the Mustangs to a 48-36 lead after three.
“We got everybody involved,” Austin said. “In the first half nobody was moving. We weren’t really playing basketball. In the second half we got people moving more and more people scoring.”
Austin scored 37 in the game, 18 of those in the first half and seven more in the third.
La Monte’s Seth Johnson scored 25 in the game with 11 of those coming in the first four minutes. Northwest held him in check for most of the second and third quarters before he hit a jumper in the paint and back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“We wanted to come out and just play a straight man on him,” said Northwest coach Jason Wiskur. “We put Cortlen on him to start with and we had talked about in practice how to stop him and we weren’t doing a very good job so we decided to stop the man and go into a 2-3 zone and not really play a box-and-one, but just have one man extend out on him at all times.”
Johnson opened the game with a 3-pointer and was fouled on a 3-point attempt moments later, hitting all of his free throws to put the Vikings ahead 6-2. After inside baskets from Logan Rieckhoff and Jason Thompson, Johnson struck again with another 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to put La Monte ahead 15-3 with 4:40 left in the first.
The Mustangs answered with a run of their own. A 3-point play from Green brought Northwest within nine and Austin made three layups, the last part of a 3-point play, to cut the lead to 17-15.
“We kind of rely on Cortlen as our crutch,” Wiskur said. “We go three freshmen at times and we’ve got another kid that hasn’t played since his freshman year so we just kind of sometimes lean back and I’ve told them we can’t let Cortlen do it all.”
All 11 baskets Austin made from the field in the game came in the paint and all of them in the first half were on penetration.
“I was just trying to get to the basket,” he said. “They were trying to pressure me so I tried to take them off the dribble.”
In the second quarter he began seeing more looks in transition with Northwest even pushing the ball up court after made baskets.
“It’s something that we worked a lot on early in the season and then we were bit with a couple of starters having to be out and not a lot of depth,” Wiskur said. “We talk about it a lot and we’re getting better at it.”
Johnson was the only Viking to score in double figures in the game. Thompson scored seven points in the first half but was held to two in the second half. Tristan Hackworth also finished the game with nine points with eight of those coming in the second half.
“We wanted to make their other guys shoot,” Wiskur said. “We knew their main focus was Seth. In the fourth quarter he made two straight 3-pointers and they cut the lead to 11. We just talked about not letting him get into the paint. If they were going to beat us, have them beat us from the outside.”
La Monte only trailed once in the first half, when Austin hit a jumper on the game’s first possession to make it 2-0. Even after Northwest’s run late in the first, La Monte pushed the lead back out to 22-15 after Johnson hit a jumper and Cobey Martin opened the second quarter with a layup. Northwest tied the game with 42 seconds left before the half on a putback by freshman Daniel Blaylock.
The teams traded the lead early in the third but a Hackworth basket to bring La Monte within a point at 37-36 midway through the quarter would prove to be the Vikings’ last points until early in the fourth.
In the final eight minutes La Monte got the lead down to 11 twice but could not get closer.
Northwest (2-5) will open the Otterville Tournament against the host Eagles on Jan. 6.
La Monte (1-4) will host Sacred Heart Jan. 9.