By ROB HAMILTON
In a Blue Division thriller, Mount Gilead was able to overcome a great shooting performance by James Donner to outlast Northmor by a 76-67 margin Friday.
While Donner hit eight three-pointers on his way to a 34-point outburst, including 19 in the fourth quarter, the Indians were able to boast four players in double figures in the win. “I was most pleased that as a team, we’re starting to develop an identity where everyone plays an important part,” said Indian coach Tom Cooper. “We played a bunch of guys. Cooper noted that due to the poor weather in January, his team will be making up a lot of games in a short period of time, so he feels it’s important to get contributions from a lot of players in order to not overwork anyone.
“We play a lot of games, so we have to playu a lot of kids,” he said. “All our guys off the bench played really well tonight, which is fun to see.”
That’s what happened for his club on Friday. Despite being ill, Garrett Ullom got things started for the Indians by burying three quick three-pointers to give the Indians an early 11-3 lead. A fourth triple by the senior guard helped increase Mount Gilead’s lead to nine points at 16-7.
The Knights would fight back in the final minutes of the period, getting five points by Donner to close within 18-15 after the opening period.
After Mount Gilead got their lead back up to a 27-21 score in the second quarter, the Knights made another run. A Zach Neuman bucket was followed by back-to-back threes from Donner and Gunnar Lilly. Lilly then added a pair of free throws to put Northmor up by a 31-27 margin.
The Indians ended the half with back-to-back shots by Chris Godfrey to knot things up at 31 entering the break. After the Knights regained the advantage at 37-35 in the third quarter, Mount Gilead got nine straight points to go in front for good. Michael Bland started things with a pair of free throws and Xavier Harris added two more. After that, Zach Hosack gave the team a spark from off the bench, scoring five straight points and doing a good job of getting into Northmor’s passing lanes and getting steals.
“Garrett Ullom had a really nice night and then Zach Hosack stepped up and played really well,” said Cooper.
Trailing 44-37, Northmor got a basket by Donner before the period ended with Hosack and Donner trading threes to enter the final quarter with the Indians up 46-42.
Both teams seemingly scored at will down the stretch, with the Indians putting up 30 points in the final period and Northmor scoring 25. While Donner was near-unstoppable in the period, hitting five three-pointers and four free throws, the Indians just had too many weapons. Holding a 50-48 lead, the Indians got back-to-back threes from Tyler Bland and Ullom to go up by eight with just over five minutes to play. Then, after the Knights got within a 58-53 lead, Mount Gilead took control of things with a 8-1 run that took the clock down to under three minutes. Down the stretch, the Indians would hit enough free throws to claim the win.
“That was a really fun, well-played game by both teams,” said Cooper. “We knew Northmor was playing really well. They had Pleasant, but lost in overtime and then beat a tough Fredericktown team and Marion Harding. He (Donner) is one of the best shooters in the area — not just the conference — and we knew he’s been on fire. When a really good shooter is on fire, he’s hard to stop.”
Donner scored 34 for the Knights and Lilly added 14. For the Indians, both Ullom and Harris tallied 18 points, while Hosack and Godfrey both finished with 12. Cooper feels that his team’s improved play comes down to one big key — improved shooting.
“It’s hard to defend our size inside and at the three-point line,” he said. “We’re starting to shoot well and we’re hard to defend when we’re shooting our threes.”
Rob Hamilton may be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 204.