by Gary Andrews
It was championship night at the Manchester boys' basketball sectional Saturday with the Manchester Squires and the Northfield Norsemen going to battle. Ironically, the last time Manchester had won a sectional was in 1995 when current Northfield head coach Moe Smedley coached the Squires. The Norsemen were going for their second straight sectional crown and fourth overall under Smedley.
Manchester made it to the final game by defeating Oak Hill 55-53 in the first semi-final game Friday. Northfield was in the final by edging Southwood 54-48 in overtime Wednesday and topping Wabash 87-61 Friday.
Everything went right for the Squires early, racing out to an eight-point lead and making the Norse play catch up most of the first half. Being calm and staying patient, the Norse took the lead midway in the third quarter and held off the Squires for a 51-47 win and a second straight sectional title.
With both teams being a bit jittery at the start of the game, the first two points didn't come until the 6:47 mark when Collin Dawes hit two free throws to give Northfield a 2-0 lead. With nearly three and a half minutes gone in the quarter the score was still 2-0 when Claudell Dickantone went on a hot streak. Dickantone would drain three straight three pointers to give Manchester a 9-2 lead and was followed by a Chase Fierstos bucket to make it 11-2. Tanner Wilcox would stop the Squire run with two free throws with 2:16 left to make it 11-4. Phoenix Goad would score the final bucket of the quarter as the Squires led 13-4, holding Northfield without a bucket the entire quarter.
As cold as the Norse were in the first quarter, it was quite the opposite in the second. Collin Dawes would start the quarter nailing a three with Adam Roser adding two free throws to cut the Squire lead to 13-9. Dickantone would then hit from behind the arch for the fourth time and was answered by a three point play from Roser, making it 16-12.
Refusing to give in, the Squires got a bucket from Neil Underwood and a three from Chase Fierstos to make it 21-14 and with 4:06 left, the Squires got a bucket from Phoenix Goad to lead 23-17.
Just as they did in the game against Wabash on Friday, the Norse would get hot and go on a run. Adam Roser would lead a 10-0 charge by the Norse, scoring six points that included a three pointer as the Norse stormed back to take a 27-23 lead. The Squires would get a free throw from Dickantone and a steal for a bucket from Fierstos to end the half with Northfield leading 27-26.
Jon Richardson would get the first bucket of the third quarter before Clayton Petrie connected for a three to make it 30-29. Northfield leading scorer Ryan Keaffaber would hit his first and only bucket of the game with 5:00 remaining to give Northfield a 32-29 lead before Dickantone would hit his fifth and sixth three pointer to put the Squires back up 35-32. The two teams would trade buckets and with 1:15 left the Squires still led 37-34 before Roser converted a three point play to knot the score at 37.
After a missed shot by the Squires, Collin Dawes hit a one hand, ten-foot floater at the buzzer to give the Norse a 39-37 lead with a quarter to go.
Neil Underwood tied the game right away to start the fourth when Norse sharp shooter Collin Dawes found the range from behind the arch to give the Norse a 42-39 lead. Both offenses would go stagnant for several minutes as the nerves started to take over when Chase Fierstos would draw the Squires to within one with a bucket.
Dawes then found the range behind the arch again with 1:21 on the clock to give Northfield a 45-41 lead. The Norse would get the next point of the game on an Adam Roser free throw to lead 46-41 with 1:05 remaining. The Squires would work the ball, getting a bucket from Dickantone with 51.7 left to make it 46-43 and Northfield calling time out.
After two Tanner Wilcox free throws made it 48-43 the Squires got buckets from Fierstos and Underwood to make it 48-47 with 26.2 left. The Squires would foul with Wilcox converting from the line again as the Norse made free throws down the stretch to nip Manchester 51-47.
Leading Northfield was Adam Roser with 17 points. Collin Dawes added 13, Tanner Wilcox 11, Jon Richardson 8, Ryan Keaffaber 2.
For Manchester Claudell Dickantone led with 21 points. Chase Fierstos added 11, Neil Underwood 6, Clayton Petrie 5, Lucas Schilling 4.
The Norse now travel to the Tipton regional where they will play Wapahani in game two at approx 12 p.m. Delphi and Tipton play in game one at 10 a.m.