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Northwest boys turn away Carroll with defense

Published Jan. 17 at 11:37 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 18 at 6:29 a.m.

Meet Nick Williams, cool as the other side of the pillow.

“Practice pays off, that’s what my dad tells me,” Williams said. “I guess this is what he’s talking about.”

Meet Aaron Nicholson, whose size (somewhere around 5-foot-6) doesn’t come close to matching his gumption.

“I’ll take the open shot when the game’s on the line,” said Nicholson, who isn’t quite the 5-foot-8 he’s listed at in the program. “If my team needs it, I’ll pretty much do whatever.”

So with those two leading the way — along with a big helping of tough love from Northwest coach Chris Collins — the Grizzlies defeated visiting Bishop Carroll 37-32 on Friday night in a game that came down to a few clutch defensive stops, one big three from Nicholson and a whole lot of free throws from Williams.

All on a night when the Grizzlies were without 6-foot-9 forward Cortez Carr, who was injured in a loss to Kapaun Mount Carmel but will be back soon, according to Collins.

“I shoot about 100 (free throws) every day,” Williams said. “I shoot them so much I didn’t feel a whole lot of pressure when I got to the line.”

Williams sank 8 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter — the first two giving Northwest a 30-29 lead with 3:23 to play and the last two giving the Grizzlies a 36-32 lead with 15 seconds left in front of a raucous crowd.

“The crowd ... that was just beautiful tonight,” Williams said. “They were so into it. Both sides, Carroll and Northwest. It was really loud.”

Neither team did much on the offensive end in the first half, but Northwest got a boost from back-to-back baskets from Nicholson off the bench in the first quarter— a three-pointer and a long jumper for a 9-5 lead. Northwest freshman John Short came off the bench to hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left in the half to give the Grizzlies a 19-13 lead.

Collins rode his team from start to finish, focusing almost solely on their defensive effort — and it paid off.

“Whenever you play a team like Carroll, a great rivalry and a team that’s so well-coached, you shouldn’t be worried about who will rise to the occasion,” Collins said. “I didn’t know before the game who it was going to be, but I knew we’d have somebody step up. I knew our guys would dig in on defense and that would trigger our offense.”

Northwest led 25-23 after three quarters, and Carroll took the lead back at 27-25 before Williams found Nicholson slipping off a baseline screen for a three in the corner with four minutes remaining for a 28-27 lead.

“Great job by Nick getting me the ball,” Nicholson said. “He really made that play happen.”

It would be Northwest’s last field goal — the rest of the way it was all Williams, hitting both shots of a one-and-one the first two times at the free-throw line. Carroll had a chance to cut the lead to two with 15 seconds left, but Connor Evans missed a pair of free throws and Northwest’s Alaze Grant hit 1 of 2 on the other end for the final margin.

Northwest improved to 4-5 overall and 3-5 in City League play with the win. Carroll dropped to 3-6, 3-5.

Evans and Matt Price led the Eagles with 11 points each. Williams and Nicholson led Northwest with 10 points each.

“There was a lack of defensive commitment on our part tonight, which is very disappointing,” Carroll coach Lonnie Lollar said. “A lot of things we’ve been running we didn’t execute very well and we didn’t defend well. Credit Northwest, because they were the hungrier team tonight. They found ways to get stops, ways to get to the free-throw line.”

Carroll5810932
Northwest91061237

Carroll: Wilbert 2, Carney 3, Price 11, Evans 11, Benoit 3, Scharping 2

Northwest: Williams 10, Johnson 6, Cobb 2, Grant 3, Nicholson 10, Caldwell 3, Short 3.