The Wayne Generals proved they can trade blows with one of the best teams in the area for at least a half on Friday night.
The next step is playing that way for four quarters.
Class 4A No. 3 Northrop survived Bryson Scott foul trouble and a Wayne team that was feisty out of the gate in a 72-52 Bruins victory.
The game was much closer than the score indicated, particularly in the first half with Northrop holding just a three-point edge at halftime.
“Wayne did a great job in the first half,” Northrop coach Barak Coolman said. “We weathered the storm, fixed some things at halftime, challenged them and they responded.”
With an electric student section crowd – something not often seen at Wayne – the Generals had plenty of energy from the opening tip. The Mitchell trio of Justin, Jescus and Levi scored all 20 of Wayne's points in the first quarter, with the score tied after one in addition to Scott on the bench with two fouls.
The Generals (3-1, 0-1 SAC) were able to force Scott to pick up his third foul just over two minutes into the second quarter.
“In the first half, we shot the ball well, we ran our plays right and defensively we did a good job,” Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer said. “But we did not rebound the ball well all game.”
With Scott on the bench, brother Brenton and his teammates went to work. Brenton went for 5 of his 19 points in a short span right after Bryson picked up his third foul, while Antonio Richmond hit a big 3-pointer late in the first half to give the Bruins the edge.
“We are experienced, but we also have new guys in new positions,” Coolman said. “Don't be fooled, Bryson, Brenton and (junior guard Jacoby Claypool) are the only ones who have been involved in a heated conference game.”
The Generals went cold from the field in the second half while Northrop heated up. With Bryson back in the lineup, the Bruins increased their lead to nine by the end of the third quarter, then scored the first eight points of the fourth to put the game away.
“In the second we just didn't execute our zone offense, we had five guys who weren't on the same page,” Rehrer said. “We didn't shoot well and we just ran out of gas.”
Northrop (4-0, 1-0) made halftime adjustments and pushed its advantages in the second half, hitting the boards hard and making the extra pass for several easy buckets inside.
“I feel like we were able to wear (Wayne) out,” Coolman said. “We have been through this before … we are going to everyone's best punch.”
Despite foul trouble, Bryson finished with a game-high 23 points.
Wayne was led by the Mitchell brothers, with Justin scoring 19 while Jescus and Levi adding 11 each.
For the Generals, it was half confidence boost, half reality check on Friday.
“I told our kids that Northrop has won four titles in last two years if you look at Holiday Tournaments and the postseason,” Rehrer said. “They play hard all the time. We just cannot go out there and not run plays correctly and not execute.”
Meanwhile, the Bruins open the SAC slate with a solid victory.
“Our conference is extremely competitive with great coaches and great teams,” Coolman said. “If you can win on the road, you're going to help your cause.”