Prep Basketball: Northgate falls to Whitewater in semfinalsBy DOUG GORMAN
MCDONOUGH—The Northgate Vikings’ hopes of advancing to the Region 4-AAAAA championship ended Thursday afternoon at Ola High School.
Thanks to a dominating performance by Whitewater’s Division I junior prospect Phil Cofer, the Wildcats grabbed an early lead and never let up, rolling to a 63-50 victory in the semifinals.
The loss by Northgate ends a three-game winning streak the team has enjoyed the last week, including victories over Mundy’s Mill and McIntosh in the first two rounds of the Region 4-AAAAA Tournament.
Northgate will now play tonight at 5:30 p.m. for the No. 3 seed in Region 4-AAAAA against either Creekside or Starr’s Mill in what turned into a final four dominated by B-subregion lineups.
Regardless, the Vikings have clinched a spot in the Class AAAAA state tournament for the first time in school history.
“I am not disappointed,” Northgate head coach Mack Cain said. “We have accomplished a lot. I just felt like there was a letdown tonight. I saw it coming in practice. We went into the locker room after the game and talked about refocusing.”
Down 52-33 heading into the fourth quarter, Northgate relied on 3-point shots from Trey Stargell, Peyton Cain, Jacob Robinson and Arnold Upshaw but the rally wasn’t enough.
Whitewater (16-11) led from start to finish building a couple of double-digit leads in the first and second quarters.
Although nine Vikings scored, Northgate (9-16) had trouble reducing the Wildcats lead.
Luke Motzel led the way for the Vikings with 16 points. He stepped up twice in game with 3-point shots but it wasn’t enough.
Olusesi joined Cofer in double figures for the Wildcats, tossing in 13 points.
Whitewater pulled away in the second quarter with Cofer and Junaid Olusesi doing all the scoring but the Wildcats managed to build a 33-22 lead at the half. Olusesi sparked the Wildcats late in the first half scoring seven points in the last 1:31 left in the first half to secure the double-digit lead for Whitewater.
Northgate’s Adrian Tolbert did his part to try and keep the game close in the second quarter driving the lane and getting fouled four times. He finished the first half, hitting all four free throw attempts.
Tolbert finished as the Vikings leading scorer with 9 points.
Whitewater threw the knockout punch just minutes into the third quarter coming out of the locker room with quick baskets from Cofer and Darius Sharpe.
Sharpe’s second basket in the first minute of the third quarter gave the Wildcats a 39-22.
After a timeout, Northgate finally scored its first points of the second half on Motzel’s 3-pointer. The trey couldn’t spark a comeback as Whitewater outscored Northgate 19-11 in the third quarter.
Cofer turned in the most impressive play of the night in the third quarter, dribbling the ball into the lane for an eventual 360-degree dunk to help put the exclamation point on the Wildcat win.
It was Whitewater’s third win of the season against the Vikings
Cain, who is retiring at the end of the year, is glad there is more for the Vikings to play for before the start of next week’s state tournament.
“We just have to find away to get better before now and the tournament,” Cain said.
SCORING SUMMARY – Whitewater 63, Northgate 50
Northgate 8 14 11 17 — 50
Whitewater 16 17 19 11 — 63
Northgate (9-16) 50 – Tray Stargell 3, Wendell Watson 8, Aldrickus Evans 3, Peyton Cain 3, Luke Motzel 16, Jacob Robinson 3, Armond Upshaw 3, Adrian Tolbert 9, Austin Weller 2
Whitewater (16-11) 63 – Philip Cofer 30, Darius Sharpe 8, Michael Cofer 3, Junaid Olusesi 13, Garrett Watkins 2, Robbie Harlfinger 4, David Bowler 1, Kyle Dugger 2.