DILLSBURG — Northern used a dominant second half to pull away from Big Spring 80-33 in a crucial contest for each team’s playoff hopes on Friday night.
Big Spring and Northern (9-11, 5-6 Colonial) came into the game ranked No. 19 and 20 respectively in the Class 5A power rankings where only 16 teams make the postseason. The Bulldogs are looking for their first berth in the District 3 tournament since the 2011-12 season.
The Polar Bears trailed early as Big Spring scored the game’s first six points, but behind junior Ryan McGill, Northern evened the score at 12 to end the first quarter.
Big Spring (10-10, 2-9 Colonial) hung with the Polar Bears and put together a 5-0 run to pull within two points midway through the second quarter.
But Northern guard Chris Hartley impressed in a two-minute stretch where the sophomore nailed two 3-pointers, garnered a layup off a steal and drew a charge on the defensive end to pace the Polar Bears to a 29-21 lead at the half.
“He brings energy. He brings enthusiasm. He has a passion for the game,” Northern head coach Kyle McGill said. “When he gets out there, we expect him to energize the team and really pick us up. He did a really great job of that today.”
Northern came out of the locker room with an increased defensive intensity, which aided an 18-0 run to begin the second half, including a Hartley-delivered alley-oop dunk to Ryan McGill.
A combination of pressure from the Polar Bears and carelessness led Big Spring to numerous turnovers, unofficially 31, which cost them and proved to be their downfall.
“We turned it over too many times in the second half coming out of the gate,” Big Spring head coach Jason Creek said. “We got beat on a lot of leak-out points. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of vert, so even though we’re fairly tall at times, we’re crashing everyone. If you get a turnover up top, we get a leak out.”
Northern was on fire from long range, as seven different players knocked down 13 3-pointers, including eight after the break. The Polar Bears outscored the Bulldogs 51-12 in the second half, sending Big Spring to their worst loss of the season.
“If we could spread that out more throughout the season we’d be a lot better off,” McGill said. “If we play defense, that sparks our offense. It gets us easy buckets which build our confidence and then the ball goes in the hoop. Once that happens, we’re really tough to play with.”
Ryan McGill led Northern with 23 points while Hartley, Jordan Heisey and Dan Leitholf each scored in double-digits for the Polar Bears.
Point guard Nick Black topped Big Spring with 12 points as the undermanned Bulldogs were without injured senior Trevor Perry. Peyton Bechtold, who became just the sixth Bulldog to reach 1,000 career points Thursday night, scored just six points in the game.
“Our kids played hard,” Creek said. “It was the second night in a row where physically we’ve gotten pushed around too much.
“We’re sitting at 10 wins with two more games to go, and we can finish strong. If we can win at Waynesboro and then take care of business at home on Senior Night, you never know what can happen.”