Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prep Basketball: Northgate boys fall just short again

By CHRIS GOLTERMANN

cgoltermann@newnan.com

In the simplest of sports terms, the basketball simply hasn't bounced the Northgate Vikings way too many times the past two weeks in Region 4B-AAAAA play.

A 41-40 loss to Starr's Mill on Tuesday at home may have been the most complete example yet of hard efforts that haven't translated into the win column for head coach Mack Cain's 2012-13 lineup.

Outside of a five-point win over Creekside a week earlier, the Vikings were dealt their third single-digit loss to a subregion opponent since starting the 2013 portion of the schedule.

This time, Northgate put together a consistent effort on defense led by a triangle-and-two on Panthers sharpshooter David Watson, holding the junior guard to 10 points with Vikings Trey Stargill, Wendall Watson and Aldrecus Evans alternating assignments.

They also received an outstanding effort from senior guard Luke Motzel, who finished with 16 points and five steals while helping push Northgate out to a 20-18 halftime lead.

In the end, however, David Watson connected on his final shot to give Starr's Mill a 3-point lead — the Panthers' largest —with 2:26 to play and Motzel couldn't connect on his last attempt in the closing 30 seconds setting off a frenzied and foul-free finale where the ball changed possession at least twice before time ran out on the Vikings.

It was the latest in a series of closely fought subregion games for Northgate that have ended in single-digit defeats including ones to McIntosh (63-57) on Jan. 4 and Whitewater (Jan. 11). The three subregion losses now have the Vikings sitting at 4-10 overall and 3-7 in the subregion while trying to keep chase with Whitewater (9-8, 4-4) for third.

"I thought our kids played hard out there," said Cain, who had words with the officiating staff as they walked off the floor to his own frustration. "It's not all that. Coach [Brandon Hutchins] does a good job over there and we know we've still got to play them again at their place. We're not far off. We're getting better."

(To view photos from these games, visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture/ and click on Sports to view last night's Photo Gallery.)

Starr's Mill (12-8, 7-3) entered Tuesday off a tough 1-point overtime loss of its own Saturday to first-place McIntosh (12-5, 8-1) and found itself close, but constantly giving chase in a one possession game for nearly all of four quarters. The game featured seven lead changes and eight ties, with the Panthers' Watson connecting off a screen from beyond the arc to allow Starr's Mill to stay infront for good in a 36-36 game with 2:47 left.

After trading baskets, Northgate's Watson stole the ball and found Adrian Tolbert inside to pull the Vikings within one point. Motzel made his final steal with his teammates pressing the ensuing inbounds off a timeout with Cain pleading his team not "to go Cowboy" by fouling.

Trying to find an open look, Motzel sent up a final attempt from the right corner that clanged off the rim and the play began drifting toward midcourt in a frantic series of loose balls and diving bodies that finally ended with Starr's Mill dribbling toward the Vikings basket and Northgate's coach throwing up his arms in frustration toward the folks in stripes.

Cain, though, praised Motzel for playing one of his best games with Stargill struggling on offense with a bad hand.

"Luke stepped up and played a great game tonight," he said.

Wendell Watson gave Northgate its largest lead of five points with a first-quarter trey, but Motzel's four points and two steals in the second quarter helped keep the Vikings in front with Panthers 6-foot-7 Ryan Avidano beginning to cause problems down low.

Neither lineup managed more than a two-point lead in the third quarter with Evans draining a 3-pointer to give the Vikings one of its last leads with 1:39 left in the period, which ended in a 32-32 deadlock.

Avidano led Starr's Mill with 18 points, 10 of which came after halftime. Back to back baskets by senior point guard Will Anda and Avidano with just over three minutes left gave the Panthers the first of their two 3-point advantages.

Evans connected again with 2:47 left only to see the Panthers' Watson lose him in traffic on the next Starr's Mill possession for a final 3-pointer and a 39-36 lead.

"I thought we did as good a job defending him as we could," Cain said of Watson. "I scouted them earlier in the year and he can put up 20 easy. He's that good a shooter."

Northgate's Watson added eight points in a losing cause while Evans finished with six.

Starr's Mill (girls) 58, Northgate 19: A Lady Panthers lineup made up of three seniors and six juniors overwhelmed Northgate in the second quarter after five straight points by the Lady Vikings (4-10, 2-8) pulled the hosts to within a 13-7 deficit.

But the game unraveled from there with Starr's Mill (12-4, 7-3) scoring the next 14 points while holding Northgate without a field goal in the period.

Ebonee Echols' three free throws were the Lady Vikings only points of the period. Starr's Mill finished with 21 field goals and were 8 of 10 from the line among 11 scorers.

Madison Highland led the way with 12 points on four 3-pointers. Alex Pitts added 10 and was 5 of 6 among free throws.

Echols had 11 points and Katie Mitchell added six in the loss for the Lady Vikings. Taylor Kidner had Northgate's other basket on a reverse layup that pulled her team to within a 13-6 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

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