OSSIAN – There's hot shooting, and then there's what Norwell did against Bellmont in the Class 3A sectional semifinals on Friday night.
The Knights shot 7 for 7 in the first quarter and were 14 of 15 at halftime. When the final buzzer sounded and Norwell had secured a 64-46 win over the Braves (11-13, 1-6 NE8), the Knights' (21-2, 7-0) shooting percentage for the game still hovered around 70%.
"We've got a pretty good shooting team overall, and I think when we take good shots, we're going to make a high percentage," Norwell coach Mike McBride said. "The biggest key for us is to take care of the ball, keep the ball moving, and get the kind of shots we need. We need to play inside-out. We did that tonight."
Norwell pressed early on defense and started to pull away midway through the first quarter. Senior forward Will Geiger hit a 3-pointer to put Norwell up 9-5, then senior forward Drew Federspiel hit his third bucket of the game. Bellmont junior forward Nic Ellsworth pulled off a nice spin move in the lane and made a layup to narrow the score to 11-7, but Norwell junior guard Eli Riley countered with a 3. As the first quarter drew to a close, Geiger made the slightest of shot fakes at the top of the key to get past Bellmont senior Kade Fuelling and drove down the lane for the easy layup.
In the second period, Norwell's Lleyton Bailey showed that the hot hand extended to the freshmen, hitting three straight attempts from 3, including one as the quarter expired that gave the Knights a 39-21 halftime lead.
"It seems like most of the time, it's individually," Geiger said of the hot streaks he and his teammates have put together this season. "As a team, I don't know if we've ever shot that well. It's a great feeling. When all the guys are shooting that well, it's fun to play and we're a hard team to stop."
Ellsworth led all scorers with 17 points, and Fuelling scored 12 in his final game with the Braves. Fuelling and Geiger, who are both listed at 6-foot-5, matched up against each other.
"It's a lot of fun, we actually play together in the summer on the same AAU team, so there's a little bit of history," Geiger said. "He's a really, really talented player."
Geiger led the Knights with 15 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard Conner Torson scored 14 points. Bailey and freshman Luke McBride each scored 11.
"We made a real effort to try and get Geiger involved early, and I think the kids did a nice job of playing through him," McBride said. "I thought Conner Torson was really big tonight, really attacked the basket for us, and our bench guys did a really good job as well. So it was a great team effort tonight. Got real productive minutes out of the freshman Lleyton Bailey tonight, comes in and has 11 points in the first half."
The Knights will play Mississinewa (19-5) for a sectional title in their home gym at 7:30 p.m. today, aiming for a 14th sectional trophy and the first since 2014.