Northwestern’s boys basketball team held off Dorman 54-51 Friday night, avenging an earlier 61-24 loss to the Cavaliers when many of the team’s main contributors were still suited up in football pads. The Trojans still had only managed three full practices since the football team’s season ended last Saturday, but in beating Dorman, the No. 2 team in the state, Mike Gossett’s crew showed what it is capable of.
“They’ve come in and had great attitudes and worked hard,” Gossett said about his late arrivals. “It’s a great win for us. We’ve got a long way to go, but still it was a big win for us.”
Maurice Daniels scored 17 to lead the Cavaliers, while Mustafia Love’s 15 was tops for the Trojans. Manzi Hill, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, pitched in 13, while Rontavious McClure and Mason Rudolph each had eight and LaThomas Long seven. It wasn’t McClure’s best game, but Love and Hill stepped up in the talented senior’s stead for a big win.
“One of us gonna have a bad night, the other two gonna pick it up,” Love said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
Dorman led 39-35 heading into the fourth quarter, and the score yo-yoed in the final eight minutes. Free throws by Love and Long gave Northwestern one of its biggest leads of a tight game at 52-47, and they had a chance to salt away the victory at the free-throw line, only for Mason Rudolph to miss three out of four.
But with his team leading 54-51 on the final possession, the football team’s quarterback came up with a clutch hardwood play, stripping Josh Black as he went up for a potential game-tying 3-pointer to preserve the win. They were almost left to rue the missed foul shots, but Gossett was thrilled with his team’s gutsy play in the clutch.
“They’re all in great position on that play, and I’m very proud of them for that,” said Gossett.
Love was also very solid in his second game back with the basketball team. He picked up his fourth foul with about two minutes left in the third quarter, but returned with 5:17 left in the game and rewarded Gossett’s faith with some big plays.
“He just told me, ‘stay calm, don’t put too much pressure,’ just play my game,” said Love afterward.
There was really no chance of a repeat of last week’s lopsided blowout by the Cavaliers, but the anticipated return of football stars didn’t equal an automatic win for Northwestern either, especially against a well-coached Dorman squad with nine seniors.
The visitors’ zone defense in the first quarter spurred an 8-2 run helping the Cavaliers jump out to a 15-10 lead. They opened the lead up to eight points at 23-15, but the Trojans’ defense finally forced some Dorman misses and allowed the home team’s athletes to stretch their long legs and run a little. Love soared in for a lay up and Hill knocked in a pair of freebies to make it 23-21, before Love gave the Trojans a halftime lead. The 6-foot-5 junior dribbled down the clock, then dashed past his man, scoring at the rim while drawing contact to tie the game. Love’s successful free throw made it 24-23 Northwestern at the half.
Love’s effortless athleticism isn’t uncommon in the Northwestern ranks. Friday night, it seemed like the Trojans could have scored every possession inside if they wanted to, but perhaps there is still some rust to knock off.
“We’ve gotta’ learn to use it,” said Gossett, referring to his team’s advantage in the paint. “With two practices, I’m very proud of them. We’ll get back to work on Sunday.”
Northwestern 54, Dorman 51
Northwestern- Manzi Hill 13, Rontavious McClure 8, Mason Rudolph 8, Mustafia Love 15, Will Chitwood 3, LaThomas Long 7; Dorman- Andrew Burns 2, Josh Black 5, Quantez Brown 7, Maurice Daniels 17, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside 9, Brandon Pinckney 5, Amavi Draper 4, Kyle Hill 2;
3-pointers- Northwestern 1 (Chitwood), Dorman 4 (Daniels 2, Arcega-Whiteside, Black); Free throws- Northwestern 18-26, Dorman 15-22; Team fouls- Northwestern 20, Dorman 24; Fouled out- Daniels (Dorman), Love (Northwestern);
Records- Northwestern 2-6; Dorman 4-3;