2017-12-14 / Sports

Cherryland champs start title defense with big win

Three games into the 2017-18 campaign, the Northport boys basketball team is starting to find its identity.

“It’s going to be that kind of year where we have a different guy step up every night,” coach Dan Stowe said. “It might wear a little on the coach’s nerves, but it’s exciting to watch.”

Stowe isn’t just rattling off “balanced scoring” coach-speak, either — he might be onto something.

The unselfish formula worked like a charm Tuesday night as five Wildcats scored eight or more points in a 47-27 league win at Grand Traverse Academy.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Stowe said of the Mustangs. “We prepared for them to have outside shooters and a couple guys inside.

“They had both. We really tried to tighten up our defense and take quality shots. The rest took care of itself.”

Dream Team returner Austin John poured in a game-high 12 points. Ethan Pino added 10 points; Zach Stowe chipped in with nine; Brett Dyer and Austin Huck each had eight.

Not bad for a Northport team operating without its starting point guard, senior Navneet Dhami, who suffered a preseason ankle injury and figures to miss a good chunk of the season.

“He is one of our stronger ball handlers and shooters,” Dan Stowe said. “That really set us back. We’re hoping he’ll be able to rejoin us prior to tournament time. A real intelligent player and one of our senior leaders.”

Northport (2-1, 1-0 Cherryland) also got the job done Saturday in its first win of the season, a 49-14 drubbing of visiting Bay City All Saints — a team Northport lost to 47-32 last season.

Dan Stowe said his team’s ability to couple defensive intensity with good decision-making in transition made the difference this time.

“We’re kind of embracing a different game than last year,” Stowe said. “We’re still trying to find our new identity, but we’re trying to establish more of a flexible offense where the boys are flowing up and down the floor.

“Saturday, we did that, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’ll likely be a different look than that of the 2016-17 Northport team, which was coached by defensive guru Dave Ginsberg.

The Wildcats relied on more of a half-court offense a year ago, scoring 38.7 points per game in the process. Through three games, the team is putting up 43.7 points per game, surrendering 0.8 fewer on average (30.0).

Northport’s fourth game of the season will be against Leland on Jan. 4.

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