PIONEER – It’s no secret that Jerry Keifer’s Evergreen Vikings have a lot to look forward to this basketball season with a number of starters and lettermen returning from last year.
Against North Central the Vikes learned to play without many of them for a lengthy period of time and rebounded from an early eight point deficit to come away with a 60-51 win Friday night.
“To start your first game of the year down 8-0 and have to battle back to take the lead by halftime, you have to feel pretty good about it, especially missing four, five, six layups,” explained Keifer.
“We talked about how badly we played and how much foul trouble we were in and still up three. I thought the second half we really, really took control defensively.”
Cody Tomblin’s putback, then triples by Joshua Bailey and Jerry Welch gave the Eagles a quick 8-0 lead with 5:15 left in the first.
The Vikings, playing without Mason Loeffler who was nursing an injury, got three-balls from Nate Brighton and Chandler Lumbrezer to slice the Eagle lead to 10-7 at the quarter as the Vikings struggled shooting, just 3 of 13 in the period.
However, 4 of 4 at the stripe from Lumbrezer and Bryce Hudik gave Evergreen an 11-10 lead early in the second, then Hudik found Brighton for a transition basket and John Machacek for a wide open triple to boost the Evergreen advantage to 16-10.
Again the Vikings went cold and Lumbrezer, Hudik and Josh Dowling went to the bench with a pair of fouls each to allow North Central to battle to within 19-18 when Josh Bailey hit both ends of a bonus.
Nick Beemer found Machacek underneath for a layup with 43 seconds left to give the Vikings a three point lead at the break.
Josh Bailey’s drive chopped the Evergreen lead to one, then with 6:40 left in the third, the Eagles again claimed the lead on Layne Cogswell’s offensive rebound hoop.
Back-to-back triples from Dowling and Machacek and a Dowling drive put Evergreen up 31-24, but again the Eagles got it down to 31-30 on Jack Bailey’s triple with 4:17 left.
But the Vikes went on a 9-0 run keyed by Brighton’s third triple of the night, Lumbrezer’s layup on a great feed from Dowling, and a jumper from left of the foul line from Hudik.
“Nate..I almost called him Matt Brighton..had a great game from the perimeter, then we started getting shots to fall. Josh Dowling and John Machacek bring a lot of emotional energy to get us going,” said Keifer.
Lumbrezer’s putback, another Dowling assist to Brighton, Hudik inside from Machacek and Brighton’s baby hook bumped the Evergreen lead to 50-38 with 5:47 left.
Jack Bailey’s seven straight points got North Central to a five point spread but a 10-2 run keyed by Dowling’s six points that included two layups from Hudik and Lumbrezer pushed the Vikes to their biggest lead at 60-47.
“We shared the basketball well all pre-season,” stated Keifer. “I like the way we pass to each and play with each other right now. It’s a great recipe for success.”
Brighton led the Vikes with 17 points and seven boards. Dowling had 12 with four assists and Lumbrezer chipped in with 11.
Jack Bailey had 16 and Josh Bailey 12 for the Eagles who were forced into 19 turnovers compared to 11 for Evergreen.
The Vikings now travel to Swanton Friday and Otsego Saturday.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com