After Eron Gordon missed his third 3-pointer in the first quarter on Friday night, North Central coach Doug Mitchell motioned the "keep shooting" sign to his freshman star.
Gordon nodded back, then did as told.
Gordon's 3-pointer from the corner midway through the fourth quarter put North Central ahead to stay in a 73-68 home win over Class 2A top-ranked Park Tudor. The 6-2 freshman guard scored 10 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to offset a 40-point explosion from junior Trevon Bluiett and end the Park Tudor's 19-game winning streak.
"He hit some big shots down the stretch," Mitchell said of Gordon. "He needs to know that's OK to miss a few and keep shooting. And Darius Latham (18 points and 17 rebounds) did a tremendous job of leading us down the stretch. It was collectively a big win that we needed."
North Central (4-3) avoided falling .500 this late in the season since it posted a 10-12 record in 2000-01. But the Panthers had been close to a breakthrough, losing games to Class 4A state-ranked Pike, Carmel and Hamilton Southeastern by a combined 11 points.
"When it came to gut check time this time, we showed a resolve and determination that I was very proud of," Mitchell said.
North Central, which was blitzed 83-61 by Park Tudor a year ago, trailed by six at the start of the fourth quarter. But the wide-bodied 6-5 Latham, a matchup problem all night for Park Tudor, and Gordon helped spearhead a 20-3 run that put North Central in command.
After Wade Stallings tied the game 54-all with a shot in the lane, Gordon fired in his go-ahead 3 from the left corner, near the North Central bench.
"I had confidence knowing people want me to take that shot," Gordon said. "We knew going in that Park Tudor plays a good zone defense so the key was to hit outside shots."
Park Tudor (5-1) trailed by 11 with 1:30 to play but again got within 68-65 with 37 seconds left with the help of an untimely technical called on Mitchell. But North Central made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal it.
"(Gordon) was the difference in the game," Park Tudor coach Ed Schilling said. "He hits the four threes in the first half and they were pretty well guarded. He's incredible. He's certainly something special."
So too was Bluiett, who made 16-for-18 from the free-throw line as North Central rotated several players on him defensively.
"We didn't make that adjustment to how the game was called early, but (Bluiett) is a very good player," Mitchell said. "He earned it."
Perry Poindexter added 13 points and seven rebounds for North Central, which hosts its own tournament Thursday and Friday.
"I think this game showed we can collectively come back and succeed after a couple tough losses," Gordon said. "I feel like we can take some momentum from this game. We have really good chemistry and we're playing really well together."