Northwestern senior Trenton Brazel said he typically uses the first half of a basketball game to find his groove.
Wednesday night at The Tee Pee, West Lafayette did not give the talented guard that opportunity.
West Lafayette kept Brazel off balance all night while setting a season low for points allowed in a 46-27 victory over Northwestern in a Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional first-round game at The Tee Pee.
Brazel, who came into the game averaging 21 points per game, made just 1 of 18 field goal tries on a four-point night. Many of those tries were of the hurried, off-balance variety, or came with a West Lafayette defender in his face.
“All week long, coach (Dave) Wood was telling us, ‘Defense wins championships,’ ” West Lafayette senior forward Caleb Shinn said. “Coach came up with some really good plans to stop them, and once we were able to slow them down, it limited the rest of their team.”
Shinn and Justus Stanback scored nine points apiece for the balanced Red Devils (17-5), who advance to face Western (13-8) in Friday’s semifinals. The Panthers defeated Peru 66-52 in Wednesday’s other game.
Limiting Brazel and senior center Chase Johnson were West Lafayette’s top priorities. Those two combined for more than 32 points of the Tigers’ 55.1 nightly average.
Shinn drew the first defensive assignment against Brazel. After Shinn picked up a second foul in the second quarter, those duties went to senior forward Brian Bangs and freshman guard Nai Carlisle.
Brazel said that rotation prevented him from ever getting comfortable.
“They were chasing me everywhere I went,” Brazel said. “We were doing everything we did at practice. I had good looks and just couldn’t bury them.
“They were a bear on Chase. For us to win, me and Chase have to carry the load, and 13 points tonight between me and him — that’s not going to win it for us.”
Johnson finished with 10 points and six rebounds. But apart from him, the Tigers –who had not scored fewer than 38 in a game this season — hit 4 of 26 field goals against a predominantly man-to-man look.
The Red Devils held an opponent to 35 or fewer points for the seventh time.
“We were just getting after it, approaching with our hands up, getting in a stance and communicating,” said Carlisle, who contributed seven points and four assists.
Northwestern (11-10) defended well enough on its own to stay close. But with the clock winding down in the third quarter, West Lafayette senior guard Tory Eger tried to dribble away from a defender, stopped to look for a passing option, and finding none, put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was good, and the Red Devils took a 32-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I think that took some of the heart out of them,” Wood said. “In fact, they controlled a lot of the third quarter, and looked up and they hadn’t gained very much.”