CLAYTON — Northmont looked lethargic and in a fog Friday when division rival Centerville visited the Thunderdome for the first time ever.
The Thunderbolts could only muster a single free throw in the first six minutes as the Elks jumped out to an 11-1 lead and a 14-5 lead by the end of the first quarter. Donny Shelton scored nine points to power Centerville’s early surge.
As the second quarter unfolded Northmont finally shook off its cobwebs and started to play basketball. Christian Wilson keyed the Thunderbolts offense with back-to-back baskets and a free throw to cut the Elks’ lead to 14-10. Keegan Saben countered with a basket for the Elks, but Wilson scored again and Jarell Taylor scored inside the paint while Jason Biggs hit a jump shot to tie the game 16-16. Jabari Perkins capped the Northmont rally by burying a 3-pointer to give the Thunderbolts a 19-16 halftime lead.
Northmont went on to post a solid 55-44 victory to record an important division victory while handing the Elks their first division loss. The Thunderbolts improved to 8-5 overall and to 3-1 in the Central Division of the Greater Western Ohio Conference while Centerville dropped to 7-5 and 3-1.
Jason Biggs, who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 21, was limited to just three first half points but erupted for 10 in the third quarter and eight in the fourth to help lead the Thunderbolts to victory. Biggs opened the third quarter with a basket followed by a pair of free throws by Myles Tanner, and then Biggs buried a 3-pointer to give Northmont a 26-16 lead. Biggs later buried another trey and Wilson sank a pair of foul shots to close the third quarter to give Northmont a 37-24 lead entering the final period.
Biggs has been on fire of late and is averaging 18.6 points per game and scored 35 in a 77-71 overtime loss to Chaminade-Julienne on January 2.
“The thing I like about Biggs is that he is doing a lot of things,” said Northmont Coach Collin Abels. “He is scoring a lot of different ways and not just relying on jump shots. He is finding ways to get to the line, he is finding ways to get to the basket, he is getting offensive rebounds and defensively he has improved tremendously since last year. That’s probably the thing that I am most proud of. Last year he was just not very good defensively and this year he has bought into the importance of defense and as a result he is becoming a truly complete basketball player.”
In the Beavercreek game one week ago Biggs crashed to the floor inside the lane while trying to score and hit his head hard on the floor. He proved to be one tough player by shaking off the injury to finish the game with 22 points.
“The kid has a boatload of personality to go along with his toughness,” Abels noted.
Northmont played well down the stretch and maintained at least a seven point lead en route to the 11 point win.
A key to the victory was Northmont’s defense limiting Keegan Saben to six points. Saben had been averaging 19 points per game.
“We kind of mixed up our coverage on Saben,” Abels said. “We went some man with hard denial, we threw some junk defenses at him but the two guys that ended up guarding him the most were Christian Wilson and Arius Spears. Both did a phenomenal job defensively. The kid was averaging 19 points per game and to hold him to six is just a great job. When Christian went out with a cramp Rodney Richardson guarded him a little bit and Jabari Perkins did a nice job on him. Saben is one of those guys that drives the bus for them and we wanted to make somebody else beat us and the kids did a phenomenal job on him.”
More importantly the win positions Northmont in a second place tie in the division along with Centerville. Wayne remains atop the division at 4-0 in Central play.
“All week we preached to the guys that when mental preparation meets physical execution, we’ve got a chance to be good and a chance to beat the better teams in the area,” Abels added. “I kind of challenged the guys and said, the reality of it is you’re not going to get respect until you beat the Waynes, the Centervilles and Springfields of the world and the kids did a great job of mental preparation for this game and their physical execution was phenomenal. I am just proud as heck of those guys. I’ve been coaching 18 years and I told them this ranks right up with the top three to five experiences just to see them have the success that they had tonight.”
Northmont plays at Springfield on Friday, at Butler on Saturday then returns home on Tuesday, January 26 to play Piqua.
CEN 14 16 24 44 – 44
NMT 05 19 37 55 – 55
Centerville: Donny Shelton 17, Daniel Buckenroth 4, Adam Velasco 3, Keegan Saben 6, Sam Lash 14. Totals: 16-7-44.
Northmont: Jarell Taylor 4, Myles Tanner 7, Jabari Perkins 8, Christian Wilson 9, Rodney Richardson 4, Jason Biggs 21, Dalonte Capers 2. Totals: 19-14-55.
3-point goals: Centerville 5 (Shelton 2, Lash 2, Velasco); Northmont 3 (Biggs 2, Perkins).
Records: Centerville 7-5 (3-1), Northmont 8-5 (3-1).
JV Score: Northmont 56 Centerville 48.