Highlanders fall to Kolbe, 65-51 in D IV semi-finals.
WATERBURY: As the Northwestern Highlanders came out of halftime of their semi-final match- up with Kolbe Cathedral down 11 at 31-20, they needed a spark if they had any chance of moving on to the Division IV finals.
Senior sharpshooter Ben North did his best in the frame, going on a personal 11-0 run behind three, three-pointers and a layup to bring his team back from the brink and within striking distance of an athletic and deep Cougar team.
In the end, those two factors, coupled with some missed early opportunities are the reasons the Highlanders terrific season came to an end on Wednesday night as they fell to Kolbe by a 65-51 final.
The Cougars were led by a pair of seniors, Anthony Senior (19 points) and Demetrious Gordan (18 points) and a cast that went on forever, or it seemed at times.
Kolbe pressed the Highlanders from the moment they entered the Kennedy gym and while the top ranked team handled it relatively well, the turnovers added up over time.
Northwestern controlled the action early in the game, leading 12-9 after one but had missed several layups that could have lengthened the margin but instead gave the Cougars, a traditionally slow starting team, a chance to break out in the second.
The Highlanders had a 17-13 lead after a Mike Oley three pointer with 5:37 left in the half but the fifth ranked Cougars closed out the half on a 14-3 run culminated by a long, banked three-pointer by Senior as the horn sounded.
Showing a resiliency that honored their number one ranking in Division V, the Highlanders mounted the comeback in the third on the shoulders of North (17 points) who got help all game long from fellow senior Zack Penn (15 points).
Their head coach was proud of his team’s effort, despite the outcome.
“Lots of effort tonight,” head coach Doug Sebach said. “They showed a lot of heart coming back like they did. They worked their tales off and I can’t say enough about this group. They’ve been a joy to coach all season. We’ve been right in ever game with opportunities to win.”
With the score 38-35 in favor of the Cougars, was a stunning comeback in the making?
Not against a team like Kolbe who ran off the next six points to thwart any thoughts of a Mohegan appearance for the team from Winsted.
The Highlanders stayed close at 46-41 at the start of the fourth after a Penn layup in traffic but had no answers for the 12-0 run that came at them after that and sealed the game for the Cougars.
How about those missed opportunities?
“We just needed to execute a little better on the offensive end,” Sebach said. “We got the pace we wanted and had that nice run with Ben North in the third, but we just needed to have a few more shots fall.”
Penn, for his part, was proud of his team’s effort.
“It was a tough game,” Penn said “They were a lot quicker than we were. We wanted to slow the game down and do everything we could to play our game but at times we played their game.”
The Cougars will take on Rocky Hill, the highest ranked team left in the states and come into the championship game as the number 26 seed.
Rocky Hill beat the # 3 seed, Wilcox Tech by a 66-51 final.