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Lakers drop semifinal to Panthers


“The ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”

So said Lakeland boys basketball head coach Ryan Yoder, accurately describing his team’s 51-41 loss to the host NorthWood Panthers in 3A sectional semifinal action last Friday in Nappanee.

Though NorthWood held the lead for all but a couple of minutes in the contest, the Panthers were not able to put away the Lakers until the final minute.

“Our guys battled through adversity tonight just as they have done all season,” stated Yoder, whose second season at the Laker helm ends with an 8-13 record. “I’m very proud of the way they hung in there. They could have easily rolled over and quit.”

NorthWood took a 43-33 lead with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Zachary Zurcher. Lakeland then tallied eight of the next 10 points, six coming on triples by Jalen King and Spencer Mortola, to cut the Panther advantage to four (45-41).

The Lakers had two chances to cut their deficit even further as the clock went below three minutes, but a traveling call and a missed three-point shot ended those two possessions. A basket and two free throws by Zurcher followed, and the Panthers were on their way to sewing up the win.

“NorthWood is an athletic, smart, well-coached team,” praised Yoder.

Zurcher led the Panthers with 19 points. Jakyah Qaiyim followed with 16 markers and Jonathan Wilkinson added 10.

Mortola topped the Lakeland scoring chart with 15 points. King finished with 12 and Tim Abbott had 10.

“It will be tough to lose seniors like Tim (Abbott), Jalen (King) and Cody (Richardson),” said Yoder. “They’ve meant a lot to our program and have given everything they had. All of our boys have a big heart and it showed tonight.”

NorthWood went on to beat West Noble, 58-45 in the sectional championship game Saturday evening. The 12-11 Panthers advance to the 3A regional at Blackford this Saturday where they will play either Fort Wayne Concordia or Fort Wayne Dwenger in the opening game at 10 a.m.


NorthWood 51

Lakeland 41

Scoring by quarters

      LL      9    11    10    11    -41

      NW  13    12    13    13    -51


Tim Abbott 3, 3-4, 10; Jalen King 5, 0-0, 12; Mitch Herber 0, 0-0, 0; Marco Olivares 0, 2-2, 2; Cody Richardson 0, 0-0, 0; Spencer Mortola 6, 0-1, 15; Chandler Mynhier 0, 2-2, 2; Totals 14, 7-9, 41

Three-point field goals 6 (Mortola 3, King 2, Abbott 1)


Braxton Miller 1, 2-2, 4; Zachary Zurcher 8, 3-4, 19; Derek Yoder 0, 0-0, 0; Thomas Klem 0, 0-0, 0; Jonathan Wilkinson 3, 3-4, 10; Ryan Gerber 0, 0-0, 0; Spencer Culp 0, 0-0, 0; Will Steuve 1, 0-0, 2; Jakyah Qaiyim 7, 2-6, 16; Totals 20, 10-16, 51

Three-point field goals 1 (Wilkinson 1)