WATERLOO – In an unexpected twist, Sydney Curry’s trip to the bench opened up Northrop’s road to a sectional championship.
With Curry in foul trouble and watching his teammates take on East Noble in the championship game of the Class 4A DeKalb Sectional, senior Isaac Anderson dropped 33 points and led the Bruins to a 77-66 victory and the school’s first sectional title since 2013.
“I knew I was going to have to take the leadership role,” Anderson said. “With Syd, a big part of our offense, in foul trouble, I knew as a senior I had to step up and lead this team to victory.”
Northrop (16-8) will take on No. 1-ranked Carmel (22-1) at 10 a.m. Saturday in the first game of the Logansport Regional.
Northrop’s sectional title, the school’s 13th, was well-earned long before Saturday night. After surprising some on way to the top of the SAC standings, the Bruins limped into the postseason with three straight losses and having to settle for a share of the conference title with Carroll and Homestead.
A player-led team meeting, run by Curry, cleared the air and refocused the Bruins, and they responded with three noteworthy wins in the sectional.
“We knew from conditioning, flipping those tires, running up and down those hills, that we were going to be a great team this year,” Anderson said. “It feels great, especially with my brothers. I love all of them. We did what we had to do and came out with the win.”
They did it mostly without Curry, the Bruins’ 6-foot-8 anchor who sat the entire second quarter with two fouls, picked up his fourth with 42 seconds left in the third period and fouled out with 4:35 left in the game after he was whistled for a technical foul for pushing East Noble senior Brent Cox out of bounds as the two went for a loose ball.
Although Curry still finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, the Bruins needed someone to take over. Northrop coach Rod Chamble looked immediately to Anderson.
“I just told him, ‘Hey, we’re going to ride behind you. If we’re going to win it’s going to be because of you, so just keep attacking,’ ” Chamble said. “He just kept penetrating and he kept the pressure on them.
“The good thing was he didn’t settle. I thought he would start settling for threes, but he said, ‘No, coach, I’m gonna just keep going.’ Once he got going, he got a rhythm, you’ve got to let him go.”
Anderson made 11 of 16 field goals, most of them at the rim, and was 11 of 11 from the free throw line. He also found time to add five rebounds and four assists.
East Noble senior Ali Ali had 18 of his team-high 25 points in the second half and kept the Knights (21-4) within striking distance, but they could never get closer than three.
Junior Hayden Jones’ two free throws with 4:02 to go cut the Northrop lead to 58-55, but Anderson zipped through the lane for a layup and foul by Cox for a three-point play to push the lead to 61-55.
The Bruins hit 20-of-23 free throws in the quarter to keep Knights from getting any closer. Qualen Pettus had nine of those free throws and finished with 15 points.
Cox and Jones finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively for East Noble.
“That is a great program; East Noble came out and played a geat game,” Chamble said. “They made us play at the highest level we can.
“It feels great because we’ve been working hard for this. We knew we were pretty good this summer, but nobody else thought we were. So it feels good to finally get this win.”