Norton holds off hot-shooting Field, hangs onto Metro lead

By Colin Harris | Staff Writer Published:

By Colin Harris | Staff Writer

Field turned in what may have been its best shooting night of the season on Friday, but Norton did one better as the Panthers cruised to a 76-59 Portage Trail Conference Metro Division victory.

Forced to play catch-up nearly all evening, the Falcons knocked down 10 3-pointers. Unfortunately, Norton was not far behind with nine 3-pointers on top of forceful post play from forwards Tyler Sherman and Dakota Pratt.

Senior guard Joe Simpson hit on four 3-pointers to lead Field (4-10, 1-10 PTC Metro) and was joined by teammates Austin Sparks (3) and Levi Lowden (2) with multiple 3-pointers. Teammate Dane Rice also added one 3-pointer in the losing effort.

"Normally, we're shooting around 20-percent from 3-point range and tonight was probably in the 40s or 50s," Field head coach Jon Lane said. "I'd love a shooting night like this, but Norton is just tough to beat when they're hitting their shots."

Norton (14-3, 10-1) did just that as Sherman (13 points) and Pratt (8) has slow offensive nights, but guards Justin Blanks and Jeff Schulte picked up the pace from beyond the arc.

Blanks knocked down five 3-pointers -- including two in the first quarter -- and Schulte was right behind his teammate with three triples as Norton jumped out quickly with a 23-13 first-quarter effort.

"Our plan was to kind of close down the interior and do some different things on defense," Lane said. "But Norton came out hitting their threes and that made it really hard for us to respond."

While Sherman and Pratt weren't relied upon as much offensively as they usually are, the pair used their size advantage for 16 of Norton's 30 rebounds. The Panthers duo pushed around the smaller Falcons, either keeping a number of second-chance opportunities alive or getting a rebounds out quickly for a transition scoring opportunity.

Field has its best run of the night towards the end of the second quarter as an 8-3 run cut the Norton lead to 37-28 -- its lowest point since mid-way through the first quarter.

Rice and Lowden each canned 3-pointers and Rice followed with another bucket with 1:10 remaining to get Norton's lead back to single digits.

With momentum shifting, however, the Panthers responded as Schulte canned back-to-back 3-pointers to end the half and push the lead back out to 15 points. On one of the first posessions of the third quarter, Schulte hit on another 3-pointer and Banks followed with his fourth of the night as a 12-0 run ballooned Field's deficit to 21 points.

Lane said that Norton's run to end the first and begin the second half was the dagger that ended his team's chances of a comeback.

"I'm proud of our kids effort tonight because they gave it all they had against a great Norton team," Lane said. "But those 3-pointers they hit just really deflated our run and made it tough to come back from."

Simpson and Sparks finished in double figures for Field, scoring 16 and 15 points, respectively. Lowden added nine points to go along with five rebounds.

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