PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: NorthWood wins state title thriller, beating Guerin Catholic in OT (2023)

INDIANAPOLIS — For 26 minutes, NorthWood was in control of the state championship game.

Then, Guerin Catholic turned a foregone conclusion into an instant classic.

Despite the dramatics, though, NorthWood kept its poise.

It’s reward? A state championship trophy.

In the first boys basketball state championship game to go to overtime since 2015, NorthWood was able to survive a Guerin Catholic late charge, winning, 66-63, to claim its program’s first Class 3A state title Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“It’s a shame someone had to lose this basketball game,” said NorthWood coach Aaron Wolfe in his opening remarks to the media after the game. “Give Guerin Catholic tremendous credit: I thought that they made play after play. We were just fortunate to make one more play at the end of the game than they did.”

When Panther senior Ian Raasch connected on two free throws with 6:02 left in the game, NorthWood led, 48-37. They had led the entire game up to that point, with the Golden Eagles only cutting the margin to as little as five for the first three quarters.

GALLERY: NorthWood tops Guerin Catholic to win Class 3A state title

NorthWood boys basketball won the Class 3A state championship Saturday, prevailing over Guerin Catholic, 66-63, in an overtime thriller. Here are some of the images from the Panthers' first state title in program history.

With a state title slipping their grasp, Guerin Catholic roared back. They connected on back-to-back three-pointers courtesy of senior Kamea Chandler and junior Jack Cherry, cutting the deficit to five, 48-43, and forcing Wolfe to call a timeout with 5:24 remaining.

Guerin made it a one possession game after the break, with senior Ty Sanders getting a steal and layup to make it 48-45. NorthWood stopped the bleeding momentarily on its next possession, with sophomore Tyler Raasch making a layup to push the lead back to five.

Fifty seconds later, Sanders had another layup off another steal, making it 50-47 Panthers with 3:33 remaining. Another jumper from Tyler Raasch 40 seconds later once again made it a five-point game.

The Golden Eagles would then score the final five points of regulation to force overtime. Chandler made a layup with 2:23 to go, then converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to tie it at 52 with 1:39 remaining.

NorthWood wound up being able to hold the ball for a final shot. After a missed layup from Ian Raasch, he was able to track down his own rebound, leading to Wolfe calling a timeout with 21.8 seconds showing on the clock.

After the timeout, NorthWood senior Cade Brenner took the inbounds pass and watched the clock wind down. With about eight seconds left, he drove to the lane and put up a left-handed layup, which fell short. A desperation heave from the Golden Eagles did not fall in the final second, and four extra minutes were put on the clock.

“Ian was trying to set a ghost screen for me so I can come off my left hand, which my left hand is pretty much where I try to go to the most,” said Brenner of the final shot in regulation. “I knew I had to try and get to the basket and try to draw a foul. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”

Guerin Catholic then took its first and only lead of the game to start overtime. Junior Dylan Murans made a free throw to put his team ahead 53-52. He then missed the second attempt, which was the first missed free-throw shot of the game for the Golden Eagles at that time.

The Guerin lead lasted a total of 15 seconds, as Ian Raasch made a driving layup to put his team back ahead, 54-53, with 3:29 left in OT. After a missed shot from Cherry, NorthWood capitalized with a huge made ‘3’ from junior Ethan Wolfe on an assist from Brenner. This put the Panthers ahead, 57-53, forcing a Guerin timeout.

“I was just trying to stay poised in the moment,” Ethan Wolfe said. “I had my teammates telling me to keep shooting, and if I see daylight to just let it fly. So, I just tried to shoot it with confidence.”

The lead reached as many as seven in overtime, as senior Brock Bontrager scored his lone two points of the game to put his team up, 63-56, with 1:04 to go.

Once again, though, the Eagles had a run in them. Chandler made two free throws to make it 63-58. Brenner countered with two free throws of his own to push the lead back to seven. Cherry then connected with a ‘3’ to make it 65-61 NorthWood with 44 seconds left.

After Tyler Raasch missed on a dunk attempt, the Golden Eagles went down and converted on two free throws from junior Robert Sorensen, suddenly making it a two point game, 65-63, with 27 seconds remaining.

On NorthWood’s next possession, Brenner turned it over on a bad pass. Guerin Catholic called timeout with 11.7 seconds left, trying to draw up a final play to either tie or win the game.

As it had all season, though, the Panthers defense made a stand. Sophomore Bryson Cardinal caught the inbounds pass, but was immediately swarmed with Tyler Raasch. Cardinal passed to Sorensen, who was met by Brenner. The ball then got into the hands of Chandler, but Ian Raasch did a great job of keeping a driving Chandler in front of him. Chander then tried to throw a bounce pass to Murans, but Bontrager was able to get in front of it enough to where it went off Murans’ hands and out of bounds with two seconds left.

“I was thinking we might have just sealed the deal for the state championship,” said Bontrager of that final defensive stand. “I was very happy.”

After a timeout, an inbounds pass went to Brenner and he was immediately fouled. The senior made the first three throw to make it 66-63, but then missed the second one. With only a 90-foot heave available, Murans chucked the ball downcourt, with it bouncing off the backboard and falling to the ground harmlessly.

In one of the most dramatic ways possible, NorthWood was state champions, and the celebration was on.

“It was an incredible game to be part of,” Aaron Wolfe said. “It just felt like heavyweight fighters were throwing punches at each other, and it was one shot after one shot. Obviously, we would’ve loved to win it going away or even in regulation, but that’s where you’ve got to give (Guerin Catholic) credit: they’re a very good basketball team and continued to make plays down the stretch.”

After the game, Ian Raasch was named the Mental Attitude Award recipient for Class 3A.

“It’s really humbling,” said Ian Raasch of the honor. “I’m just thankful for the coaches and school system to think that highly of me.”

It was a first half controlled by NorthWood, with Brenner leading the charge. The senior scored the first eight points of the game as the Panthers raced out to a 10-0 lead.

Brenner then kept on scoring, finishing with 23 points in the first half. He was 8-of-11 shooting overall, including 5-of-7 from three-point range.

“I knew it was a pretty big game; state finals and all,” Brenner said. “I knew I had to come out, shoot and make shots, which I did. It wasn’t all on me; it was on my teammates getting me open. I couldn’t get those shots without any of them passing to me.”

NorthWood’s lead was as large as 14 points, going up 18-4 late in the first quarter. It ended up being 18-7 after one, 35-27 at halftime and 44-35 through three quarters.

Brenner did not score in the second half, but added five points in overtime to finish with a game-high 28 points. Tyler Raasch also had a fantastic overall game, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“Very proud of him,” said Ian Raasch of his brother’s performance. “I told him before the game to go out there, have fun, play loose. He’s a great player, and he played great.”

Ian Raasch added 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. Ethan Wolfe had nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range, and Bontrager’s two points rounded out the scoring.

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NorthWood finishes the season with a 28-2 record. They won its final 20 games, not losing a game in the calendar year 2023.


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