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Northwest opens North gym with 50-45 win

Published Dec. 6 at 11:31 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 7 at 5:16 p.m.

Count Northwest guard Aaron Nicholson as a fan of North High’s spacious new gymnasium.

Not because of the bright lighting. Or the generous seating. Or any other part of the structure.

Nicholson was just pleased to be the first winner of a varsity boys game. Thanks to his 14 points and a strong fourth quarter by Northwest, the Grizzlies knocked off reigning City League champion North 50-45 on Friday.

Northwest, which lost to the Redskins by 33 and 35 points last season, spoiled North’s first game without departed All-State guard Connor Frankamp. The Grizzlies closed the game on a 14-6 run to earn the victory.

“I thought we just had to lock down on defense and we’d be fine,” Nicholson said. “We had heart.”

Nick Williams added 12 points for Northwest, which missed on four opportunities to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. But after North’s Sean Bernard scored to give the Redskins a 39-36 lead with 4:52 remaining, the Grizzlies executed their offense better and played solid defense to turn the tide.

“That’s what we work on pregame practices,” Northwest coach Chris Collins said. “We try to put them in situations where we can emulate the pressure of the game and just throw various scenarios at them so they’ll be ready.”

North, which got 13 points from Tarius Williams and 10 from Bernard, went almost five minutes without scoring at the start of the game. But the Redskins used 19 second-quarter points to take a 25-23 halftime lead, then stretched it to 35-28 late in the third quarter on consecutive baskets by center Daniel Mathiasen.

“They’re going to be a tough team,” Collins said. “They’re a little bit more patient, more methodical, and that got us. I felt we did a good job defensively the first time or two through their sets, and then we’d let down.”

The seven-point deficit was Northwest’s largest. But Nicholson fueled the comeback with a driving layup and a pull-up jumper in the final minute of the third quarter, which cut North’s lead to 37-34.

After the Grizzlies’ Cortez Carr opened the fourth quarter with two free throws, Northwest had a series of unsuccessful possessions. Back-to-back turnovers preceded a missed layup by Brett Johnston. Then Carr missed two free throws, and Bernard scored inside to push North’s lead back to three.

But Northwest got its first lead of the second half at 40-39 on Nicholson’s jumper with 3:41 to play. After North’s Tristyn Villa countered with two free throws, Kaleb Cobb gave the Grizzlies the lead for good on a layup with 2:18 to play.

Northwest made its final six free throws and forced five of North’s 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter to win.

“This gives us a lot of confidence,” Nicholson said. “It will go a long way for us. It’s a great way to go into this new season.”

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North61912845

Northwest – Nicholson 5 2-2 14, Williams 3 5-7 12, Cobb 1 2-2 4, Carr 2 2-4 6, Johnston 3 1-2 9, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Standifer 0 0-0 0, Caldwell 0 0-0 0, Alacron 0 0-0 0, Meyer 0 5-6 5.

North – Beard 2 1-2 5, Williams 5 3-4 13, Bogle 0 0-0 0, Bernard 5 0-5 10, Mathiasen 2 1-2 5, Jarvis 0 0-0 0, Lewis 0 0-0 0, Cotton 1 0-0 3, Sanders 3 1-1 7, Villa 0 2-2 2.