Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Glads bag win over Wheaton

Second-half defense, rebounding key for Northwood as they win 64-52

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It’s not easy for one person to rebound his own team’s missed shots 11 times in a 32-minute high-school basketball game. Not even when that one person is Northwood’s powerhouse senior athlete, Alex Bazzie Jr.

But that’s just what Bazzie did in the Gladiators’ 64-52 home win over Wheaton Friday. Bazzie and fellow senior forward Nate Epps combined for 20 points and 23 total rebounds, doing their greatest damage in the third and fourth quarters as Northwood (5-3 record) pulled away from what had been a close game.

‘‘Dirty work, for me and [Epps], that’s kind of natural,” said Bazzie. ‘‘Coming off football season, Coach expected a lot out of me, showing them how to be a little physical. Once you start grabbing boards, that makes the guards want to come in there and start grabbing boards themselves.”

Bazzie credited a drill Northwood’s forwards run during practice sessions. Coaches toss balls in the air, and players go up for it while being whacked with foam dummy bags. Plenty familiar with that type of treatment from football season, Bazzie feels it pays dividends on the court, as well.

‘‘That’s great practice right there,” he said. ‘‘In the game, it pays off, because when guys are hitting you as you’re going up, it’s nothing you’re not used to.”

Epps swung the contest late in the third quarter with five straight points, his game total, turning a 38-38 tie into a 43-40 lead at the break. Bazzie took over from there, scoring the first five points of the fourth quarter.

During the run, Bazzie and Epps combined for 10 points, five rebounds (all offensive), an assist and a blocked shot. Northwood continued to pull away, spoiling a big night from guard Gerald Thomas of Wheaton (2-6), who scored 18 points.

‘‘They have great guards and they have post players who clean up the glass,” Wheaton coach Matt Miller said. ‘‘In the first two quarters, I thought our guys handled it well. However, when you have a small rotation, it’s hard to keep that up for four quarters.”

Indeed, only five players scored for Wheaton, while nine different Gladiators got on the board, led by sophomore guard Gerome Seagears’ game-high 21. Bazzie added 15 points and 16 rebounds.

The game turned not only on rebounding — Northwood claimed a 47-32 edge on the glass — but on defense. The Gladiators led 31-30 at the break, but the Knights were successful with their up-tempo game and well-executed back-door cuts, a source of annoyance for Northwood coach Tony Dickens at halftime.

‘‘We do the same thing; I hate getting back-doored and we back-door people a lot ourselves,” he said. ‘‘We don’t give up 30 points a half. ... The second half was more like it.”

The Gladiators’ three losses this season are all to teams from outside Montgomery County; two came over the holidays and won’t count toward playoff seeding. In their five in-county games, they are allowing just 43.6 points on average. Northwood has yet to face a fellow Class 2A school, but a strong regular season could set them up with a home game or two for the regional tournament.

‘‘Our expectations are much higher than last year,” Epps said. ‘‘Last year was our first year of varsity, and we got nine wins. This year, me, Alex, and the other returning players raised the bar to a higher level.”