DAYTON — Springfield North High School knew its next loss would be its last in school history. Northmont knew it better take the Panthers seriously, despite a 30-point win just a week earlier, or they’d be history themselves.
“I didn’t plant any negative thoughts in their mind about we just got beat on the road,” Northmont coach Jim Brown said of a stunning regular-season loss to Sidney last Friday. “I told them we’ve very vulnerable because it’s your first tournament game in the arena, there’s nobody there, you’re playing a team you just beat. They have the advantage. They have nothing to lose. If they hit some shots you’re going to give them some confidence.”
That, as it turns out, wasn’t a problem. Northmont used tough defense and enough scoring spurts to post a 59-47 win in front of a sparse crowd at the University of Dayton Arena. The 5:30 p.m. start — the first game of a Division I sectional tripleheader — drew few fans and barely any student sections. That was cause for concern for Brown, whose team entered seeded 20 places higher and with 17 more wins than North. Getting up for a team they beat 73-43 also gave Brown reason for pause.
“The first game to me is the toughest, from the mental standpoint,” he said. “That’s where you are so vulnerable.”
North did lead, though that came on Kelvin Cobb’s free throws to open the game. Northmont rattled off the next 12 points and led 14-6 after the first quarter. A 16-4 run to cap the second quarter essentially put the game out of reach.
“The first half just buried us,” said North coach Eddie Ford of the 32-13 halftime deficit. “We didn’t have any chance to recover. By the time we tried to figure things out it was too late.”
Northmont, 19-2 and seeded No. 3, was led by Jerontae Hunter’s 12 points and 11 each from Logan Palsgrove and Davin Lewis. The win was a nice rebound for the Thunderbolts, who missed out on a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title after getting upset by Sidney last week.
North (1-20) ended its 48-year history with the loss. North will merge with Springfield South next fall. South (10-11) lost its sectional opener earlier in the week.
“There wasn’t much talk about it,” said Ford, who plans to retire from coaching with a 220-203 record. “We tried not to focus on that because you get emotional. You get thinking about that instead of the task at hand.”
And trying to stop the T-Bolts was more than enough to focus on. The Panthers struggled with the T-Bolts quick defense. Sixteen of their 24 turnovers came in the first half.
The lead stretched to 27 points (42-15) midway through the third quarter. North’s rally in the fourth twice cut the deficit to 10, but it never dipped into single digits. Marion Troutman, whose team-high 13 points was highlighted by several acrobatic drives, paced the Panthers. Richard Quick added 12 points.
“I think our kids felt like this one is over and we’ll go to the next one,” Brown said. “That’s a dangerous thing because then you start developing bad habits. … I thought this was an extremely dangerous game for us.”
Northmont gets another one with 3-17 Belmont on Tuesday at UD. The game will take on added meaning for Brown, who is a 1962 graduate of Belmont.
“It’s like I told the kids. It’s Belmont, it’s where I went to school. We can’t lose to Belmont,” Brown said with a laugh. “That’s when I first fostered a love for basketball, when I was in high school. That summer between my sophomore and junior year I played four or five hours a day. You don’t do that unless you have a passion for the game. I have a lot of fond memories.”
North’s Ford, meanwhile, has plenty to reflect on from his coaching career as well. Ford’s teams won three Western Ohio League titles (1992, 1993, 1995) and played in two Division I state tournaments (1995, 1997).
“I think it’ll sink in the rest of the weekend when I have a chance to reflect,” said Ford. “I don’t have any specific plans. I just want to make sure I leave all my options open, except for coaching. I have a lot of things I can still do, but coaching isn’t one of them.”