Northwood holds off Merryville

Mike Gegenheimer, Special to the American Press

HAMMOND — It may not have been enough in the end, but Merryville didn’t go down without a fight.

Facing a 15-point deficit to Northwood-Lena going into the fourth quarter of the Class 1A semifinals, the No. 2 Panthers rallied to within five points with 80 seconds to play when Ariana Victor took a corner 3-point shot that could have put the game into chaos.

But Victor’s shot was not to be and No. 3 Northwood-Lena scored a mild upset, 46-39, Tuesday at the University Center.

“For the first three quarters we were rattled,” Victor said. “We couldn’t run an offense. We couldn’t score. But the fourth quarter was different because we know we can put points on the board in a short period of time.”

For a team averaging 60 points per game, Merryville (26-2) opened ice cold from the field. By halftime the Panthers shot 3 of 24 with the majority of their 15 points stemming from the free throw line.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter Merryville found an offensive rhythm with an 8-0 run that brought the score to 44-39.

But it was the Panthers’ defense that sparked the comeback effort, forcing 11 Northwood turnovers as the Gators (17-8) slowed their pace in order to kill more clock.

“We got going just a little too late and obviously didn’t end it the way we wanted to,” head coach Stormy Fortenberry said. “We couldn’t score the first three quarters and then the last quarter we decided to play our style of ball just a little too late.”

Victor and Madisen Mahfouz paced the Panthers with 12 points each while Mahfouz chipped in five steals. Kailee Hickman pulled a team-high 13 boards.

The loss ended Merryville’s 17-game win streak, stretching to December. It had not lost to a Class 1A school all season.

“We wanted to win state, of course everyone does,” Mahfouz said. “Tonight we weren’t the team we worked to be. We came short.”1A girls basketball semifinals

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