There was a play on the Northwood side of the court midway through the third period when Connor Crabtree burst through traffic with a stolen ball like a running back unexpectedly popping out of a scrum with open field ahead of him.
Crabtree dashed to the basket, and slam dunked the ball, giving Orange a 17-point lead.
Seconds later he popped in a 3-pointer while rolling up 14 points in the period en route to a game high 29. Together with teammate Logan Vossburg, who poured in 22 points, the two Panthers compiled 70 percent of their team’s offensive production, and nearly as much as the entire Northwood team.
The Panthers won the makeup game Saturday 73-59, and remain atop the Big 8 3A Conference with an unscratched 6-0 league mark.
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“For us to be successful it has to go that way. We rely on those two guys to get us jump started, and then feed off of them,” Orange coach Greg Motley said. “We feel like every night one of those two has to come up big for us to be successful.”
The rest of the team doesn’t mind sharing the ball.
“The kids, just being smart, they know those guys have got to shoot the ball more. Maybe it isn’t normal because we had more balance in the past,” Motley said, but his younger players are coming along.
Vossburg was a huge presence under the glass, frequently clear-cutting his way to one rebound after another. On one possession alone around the 6:15 mark of the third period he hauled down three rebounds. Unfortunately, he had four missed shots on that same possession.
If there’s a criticism about his play, that would be it.
“We’ve been talking to him about gathering himself a little bit. We’re just trying to get him to slow down” before taking shots off an offensive rebound, Motley said.
“Logan played really well tonight offensively for sure. He also rebounded the ball well,” Motley said. “Logan had to play well because we thought their post kid (Gordon Brann) was pretty tough. So that was one of our focuses coming in.”
Vossburg said there were extenuating circumstances on the possession where he missed those four shots.
“They were extremely physical, and the refs just let us play” without calling what he thought might have been some fouls on his shot attempts.
Motley said his team had not played since last Saturday, and only got to practice for one hour due to exam week. That led to uncharacteristic hot and cold spurts. With three games looming this week, he said, they will need to maximize practice time.
“I think we started off pretty sluggish, but at the end we picked it up. It was a conference game so we needed the win,” Crabtree said.
“We’re finally starting to get the chemistry. We’re just playing hard, and I think that’s what’s helping us” remain atop the Big Eight perch, Crabtree said.
He said he and Mitch Portman, who hit double figures with 10 points, generally try to push the floor and break quickly to create offense.
“We’ve got a mixture of different plays. We’re just playing hard, making it happen,” Crabtree said.
While Motley is trying to keep the team focused on one game at a time, and not get caught up in conference standings euphoria, it’s hard for the players not to be aware of their shining season to date.
“I really like where we are,” Vossburg said. “I think we have a good shot to go deep in the playoffs.”
Noah Hunt scored 15 points on five 3-pointers, and Jaelon Johnson had 11 points and three 3-pointers, all in the fourth period, to lead Northwood.