Northwestern rules the BL after Tournament title game romp
The Northwestern Highlanders (22-0) captured the Berkshire League regular season and tournament titles and have their sights set on a deep run in the Class M state tournament.
THOMASTON - Northwestern missed out on a double dip last season, but the Highlanders weren't about to be denied this time around.
Led by its defense, the Highlanders completed a dominant run through the Berkshire League with a 54-35 victory over Terryville on Friday night in the BL Tournament final at Thomaston High School.
The win completed a season sweep through the league and earned the Highlanders a tournament title to go along with the BL regular-season crown. At 22-0, Northwestern will now turn its sights to the Class M state tournament, where it is the top seed and will begin its quest for a state title on Monday against No. 32 Bullard Havens Tech.
For now, the Highlanders can enjoy being the best in the Berkshire League after one of the more dominant season's the league has seen in some time. It was especially nice for Northwestern to complete the double after being denied by Gilbert last season in overtime in the BL Tournament final.
"It's a great feeling," Northwestern's John Stevens said. "We were in the same position last season and it was a little bittersweet to win the regular season title but not the tournament. We definitely wanted to come out and finish the job tonight and we did."
Having lost both the regular season matchups, Terryville needed a strong start but instead it was Northwestern who got out of the gate quicker, opening up a 19-9 lead that the Kangaroos never full recovered from.
"We got a good start and that was key," Connor Guiheen said. "We've been in this game three years in a row and have more experience, they're a little younger than us and our experience brought us through."
That experience, and this Highlanders team's explosiveness was never more apparent than in the third quarter when the Kangaroos went on a 7-3 run to pull within 30-25. Northwestern didn't panic, instead it turned up the pressure and responded with a 13-0 run that included steals, fastbreak points and a 3-pointer by Stevens. Faster than you could say Terryville's back in this, Northwestern put its foot on the gas and blew the game open.
"That's how they are, they are so long and get their hands on a lot of passes and can spurt out on quick runs, 6-0, 8-0," Terryville coach Mark Fowler said. "They did that to us a couple of times tonight and we couldn't recover."
The spurts and high-octane offense have been a calling card for the Highlanders for a couple seasons now. On Friday they were still efficient on offense but it was the defensive effort that made the difference. The traps had more urgency, few shooters were left open and aside from Arthur Trent (a game high 19 points), no Kangaroo ever got in a rhythm on offense.
"We looked at some things from the first two games we had against them and we had a good gameplan coming in and thet executed it," Northwestern coach Doug Sebach said. "Recognizing where the ball was and looking for shooters off the ball were some keys and we did a good job with that tonight."
Good job might be a bit of an understatement upon further review.
A reason the game was so highly anticipated was the belief that Terryville's three guards, Tyler Trillo, Shea Tracy and Jacob Johnson would be able to handle Northwestern's pressure and knock down some open shots. didn't happen.
Johnson had nine points but Trillo and Tracy were bottled up and managed just two and three points respectively. Stevens outscored that trio by himself and that spelled trouble for Terryville.
"You have to give them credit," Fowler said. "We threw the ball all over the place in the first quarter and we didn't make shots and that's a thing we pride ourselves on."
Fowler went on to say he expect big days ahead for his Kangaroos, starting in the Class S tournament next week and he did offer some lofty praise for the Highlanders as a veteran of the BL. A player from 1989-92 and a coach since 1995, Fowler believes this year's Northwestern team is not just the best team in the BL this year, but possibly one of the best ever.
"It's the best team I've seen in my days in the BL, as a player and a coach," Fowler said. "I said in the preseason I felt they had that potential and they have lived up to that billing. They were firing on all cylinders tonight."
Terryville 9 9 11 6 - 35
Northwestern 19 8 16 11 - 54
Northwestern (54) - John Stevens 7 0-0 16; Arthur Lefevre 2 0-0 6; Conner Guiheen 5 2-2 12; Jimi Phillips 4 1-2 9; Mike Jeffko 5 1-1 11; Totals: 23 4-5 54.
3-pointers: Stevens (2); Lefevre (2);
Terryville (35) - Tyler Trillo 1 0-0 2; Shea Tracy 1 0-0 3; Jacob Johnson 3 2-2 9; Devyn Oakes 1 0-0 2; Arthur Trent 8 3-4 19; Totals: 14 5-6 35.
3-pointers: Tracy, Johnson.