When the sectional draw came around, some coaches hoped for the bye that would put their teams in the semifinals without having to play a game and give their squads a much-needed rest.
Northrop's Barak Coolman was not one of those coaches.
“There was one thing I did not want, and that was the bye,” said Coolman after his team's 58-46 victory over host Carroll on Tuesday in the Class 4A Sectional 6 opener. “For my team, if we had to practice all week and think about a game all week, we would have been so tight.”
The Bruins (17-7) did have some slight jitters early, while allowing the Chargers to build a lead of as many as seven in the first half. But Northrop jumped ahead on an 8-0 run late in the second quarter to take control.
“To be able to get a game under your belt, get in that rhythm and senior jitters out of the way, hopefully that's an advantage for us,” Coolman said.
It has been a trying month of February for the Bruins, who won just their second game since January 26 on Tuesday.
While the four February defeats were nothing to get upset about, coming to teams a combined 74-12, it was still difficult to deal with for players accustomed to winning.
“It was tough at the moment,” said senior Brenton Scott about the losses. “It is always going to be tough when you lose, but we just got our minds right and learned.”
A grueling late-season schedule and no extended holiday break seemed to catch up with the team. The Bruins appeared in the Hall of Fame Tournament at New Castle as well as the SAC Holiday Tournament in a week span in the final week of December.
In the regular season, Northrop had just one double-digit day layoff between games.
“We never got a Christmas break, so those five games kind of started to wear on us late on in the season,” Coolman said. “Through February it was a grind and we played some really good teams on top of that.”
Despite the rigors of the schedule, Coolman did not want the extended layoff that came with the bye. Carroll (9-14) provided a solid test on Tuesday, but faded late with costly turnovers and fouls.
The Chargers finished with 17 turnovers for the game.
“We played unselfish the second half and our guys have a lot of confidence,” Coolman said. “We have been through some pretty big trials over the last month and they have persevered through that and I think it has made us better.”
A short memory is crucial when it comes to teams looking to move past prior defeats. Northrop appears to have that down.
“We always try to stay positive,” Scott said. “In the losses we tried to learn and improve every day.
“We wanted to make sure we get everything perfect for the postseason because that is most important. We don't want to lose anymore.”
Northrop will have a rematch with North Side on Friday in the first semifinal at Carroll, scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip.
NORTHROP 58, CARROLL 46
Carroll 17 9 10 10-46
Northrop 11 16 11 20-58
Carroll: White 12, Thomas 2, Hammond 3, Mallers 7, Miller 11, Gutierrez 11.
Northrop: Brenton Scott 13, Womack 4, Richmond 15, Claypool 10, Brenton Scott 23, Cowherd 3.