FORT WAYNE — It was just as you would expect with two of the best boys basketball teams in the state, with some of the most highly touted seniors, going head-to-head at Northrop.
It was back-and-forth, intense, down to the wire.
Ultimately, Northrop defeated New Haven 71-66, a testament to the Bruins’ tenacity on a night that they trailed for the first three quarters.
On the first shot of the fourth, senior Brenton Scott made a three-pointer for the Bruins’ first lead at 53-52.
That set off a quarter of end-to-end play in which the lead kept changing hands and the Big Three recruits on the court kept trying to one-up each other.
Those big three are Scott, the Indiana State recruit, who had 24 points, including a team-best four three-pointers; his brother, Bryson, the Purdue recruit with 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting; and New Haven’s V.J. Beachem, a Notre Dame recruit who had 29 points.
“We had to put a lot of focus on (Beachem) because he’s so good,” Northrop coach Barak Coolman said.
“He’s definitely an Indiana All-Star. He’s a great basketball player. Our team defense was great on him. Bryson did a great job of stepping up and getting good shots at the end (against) him.”
A Brenton Scott three-pointer tied it at 56 with six minutes remaining, but Beachem quickly answered with one of his four three-pointers. Brenton Scott came right back with a three-pointer of his own, but two possessions later, another Beachem three put the Bulldogs up 62-61.
It seemed as if momentum had fully swung back in the favor of New Haven with Beachem’s thunderous dunk for a 64-63 lead with 2:20 remaining, but the lead was regained for good by Cory Womack’s free throws and then a steal and lay-up by Brenton Scott.
Up 67-66 with 20 seconds left, the Bruins smothered Beachem, who made 10 of 22 shots, and senior Lacy Curry missed a close-range attempt for the lead.
“Our whole team was just trying to, not stop them, but to contain them,” Brenton Scott said. “We were doing what we had to do as a team to win this ballgame.”
The game was closed by Brenton Scott’s free throws and Bryson Scott’s shot at the buzzer, which sent the packed gymnasium into a frenzy.
“We play really hard. We don’t always play smart. But we play hard and aggressive and it was good to see us get a win,” said Coolman, whose Bruins (6-1) are ranked ninth in Class 4A.
New Haven (3-1), which is ranked 19th, got eight points from junior Jordan Hogue and seven apiece from Monte Stevenson and junior Steve McElvene, who also had 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“They controlled the first half but we came out and knew that if we kept playing Northrop basketball, we’d win this game,” said Brenton Scott, whose team improved its shooting from 38.7 percent in the first half to 42.4 percent in the second.
Conversely, New Haven shot 50 percent in the first half and 43.4 in the second.