Northwestern needs every win it can to climb back over .500 and secure a district playoff spot. That's why the Tigers had to avoid a trap game against a one-win Pen Argyl team Friday night in New Tripoli.
The best way to do it was to jump out to an early lead and take away any hope the Knights might have had to pull off an upset.
Northwestern used a 20-point run through the first quarter and the beginning of the second en route to a 65-40 win.
"We knew we couldn't let them come in and hang around with us," said Tiger guard Kevin Oxley. "We tried to press and get our energy up and get a couple quick baskets. We knew from there the game would be ours."
"Seventeen points in the first quarter obviously put them on their heels," said Tiger head coach BJ Dugan.
Northwestern (9-9, 6-6) forced turnovers on three of the Knights' first four possessions and forced six in the first quarter. When Oxley hit his first three-pointer of the game a minute and nine seconds into the second quarter, it put his team ahead 20-2. He hit two more in the second quarter and one in the fourth, bringing his season total within two of Ryan Shaughnessy's team record of 54.
When asked about the record the senior guard had no idea. He's not the type of player that checks the scorebook after the game. He's only concerned about the scoreboard.
"I know three-point shooting is what I do," he said. "But I didn't know I was anywhere near any records."
Oxley scored a game-high 25 points against Pen Argyl (1-17, 1-12). He missed his first two attempts from the field, but finished the night 9 of 14 overall and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. After missing two three-pointer attempts in the first quarter, he made all four tries the rest of the way.
"I know that if I miss a few I've just got to keep shooting and they'll start falling," Oxley said. "Once they start falling I think I can make every shot I take."
When he's not hitting, his teammates have no problem feeding him the ball and helping him get hot.
"They look for me," he said. "They know that if they pass the ball I'm going to look right back to them. All it's about is getting the W."
With four games remaining, Northwesten needs two more wins to secure a district playoff berth. That's why the win over Pen Argyl was so important.
"We knew coming into this game it was a must-win for us," said senior forward Ryan Betz. "To get this is really good, but we're going really good, but we're going to need some more to get into districts."
Betz had eight points and six rebounds in the game. Guard Sean Nagle scored 12 points while Trevor German chipped in with eight points.
"We just played hard the whole game," Betz said. "We ran the floor, we got turnovers, played great defense. As of lately we've been playing real well. We've been coming to practice and playing hard and it's translated into the games."
Pipher 2-1-1-5, Crossen 3-0-0-6, Bender 1-2-2-4, Monostero 1-0-1-3, Smith 0-0-0-0, Muller 4-3-6-11, Stecz 3-2-3-9, Borger 0-0-0-0, Heard 0-2-8-2, Nosatha 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-10-21-40
Lerner 1-0-0-2, Nagle 5-2-2-12, Roth 1-0-0-2, Koenig 0-1-4-1, Oxley 9-3-3-25, German 3-2-4-8, Collopy 0-0-0-0, Conway 1-0-0-3, Wagner 1-0-0-2, Betz 4-0-0-8, deBruijn 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 26-8-13-65.
Pen Argyl 2 10 11 17 - 40
Northwestern 17 15 20 13 - 65
Three-pointers - PA: Monostero 1, Stecz 1; NW: Oxley 4, Conway 1.