Prep boys basketball: Northwestern’s defense key to win over Ladysmith
Tigers’ senior C.J. Thompson scored 10 points in his first action since a Dec. 2 game against Ashland.
MAPLE — Midway through the second half of Northwestern’s game against Ladysmith Thursday in Maple, Tigers’ senior Monte Mayberry slammed the door on any hopes of a Lumberjack rally.
Mayberry popped a baseline 3-pointer and on the next possession, he stole the ball and took it the other way for a dunk that brought almost everyone in the gym out of their seats.
The five-point sequence was part of a 27-5 run for the Tigers that gave them a 31-point lead as they would cruise to a 98-82 Heart O' North Conference win.
Mayberry scored 11 first-half points, but he spent much of the half distributing when the Ladysmith defense was collapsing on him.
“Every time I touched the ball, I felt like I was drawing a lot of attention,” Mayberry said. “I saw a lot of my teammates open around the basket — or just open with their hands up — with their hands up, then they made the shots for themselves.”
Mayberry finished with a game-high 24 points and Cole Lahti scored 23, but four other Tiger players scored in double figures.
Northwestern has been averaging 84 points a game — good enough for second in all of Wisconsin — but the Tigers’ defense was key. Northwestern held Ladysmith’s leading scorer Brady Ingersoll in check for most of the game. Ingersoll finished with 19 points, slightly less than his season average, but seven of those points came after the Tigers were up big and Northwestern coach Nolan Graff had pulled his starters.
“I was really proud of the effort defensively tonight,” Graff said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping the ball to one side, we sped them up a lot.”
During practice this week, defense has been a point of emphasis for Graff during practice this week, according to Mayberry.
“Last game, we played a little bit of soft defense in the first half and coach wasn’t so happy with that,” Mayberry said. “This week we spent a couple of days playing defense all practice — for two hours. I really think that helped us.”
The win gives Northwestern (12-3, 10-0) firm control of the HON. Ladysmith (11-3, 8-2) was the only one-loss team in the conference heading into the game. With the win, the Tigers have a two-game lead with seven conference games left.
Thompson returns from injury
While Mayberry’s aerial attack brought fans to their feet, perhaps the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the moment C.J. Thompson returned to the floor early in the first half.
Thompson has been sidelined with a foot injury since Northwestern’s season-opening win over Ashland Dec. 2.
Thompson scored 10 points in his return, but more than the offensive contribution, Graff was glad to have the senior back for his leadership.
“The biggest thing we get from him on the floor is leadership,” Graff said. “He’s the one that really pieces everybody together when things get rough. He’s the one that’s grabbing jerseys, he’s grabbing bodies and saying, ‘Guys, this is ok. We’ve been through this, we’ll get through it again.”
Thompson had a slow start, but scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.
“I definitely came in with some jitters,” Thompson said. “I was gone for about seven weeks, all I was able to do was shoot. I wasn’t able to get into any games, but it started coming back to me and I’m definitely going to get there. I’m going to work hard to get there."
Northwestern will next play at Hayward at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.