Nate Brighton’s late-game heroics secure Vikings’ win

By Joe Blystone - For the Enterprise

BRYAN – In tight games this year, a number of Evergreen Vikings have made game-winning plays.

Bryce Hudik’s go-ahead basket late in overtime against Anthony Wayne was one.

Chandler Lumbrezer’s game-winning basket against Swanton with 16 seconds left was another.

This time it was Nate Brighton hitting nothing but net on two free throws with 20.5 seconds left to give Evergreen a 59-58 win over Bryan Friday night.

The win pushed Evergreen’s record to 18-4, heading into the Division III sectional this week.

“This has been a heck of a three game run,” said Viking coach Jerry Keifer of the Vikings road wins over Pettisville, Stryker and now Bryan, all on senior night at each school.

“Bryan is really good. They are the tallest team we have played so far at 6’7”, 6’6” and 6’5”.”

Brighton scored nine first quarter points, going inside for a trio of hoops, then hitting a triple from the right of the top of the key.

The Bears swung right back with a Drew Peters score inside along with a deep triple from the left side that helped give Bryan a 15-14 lead late in the first.

Mason Loeffler’s three-pointer at the first quarter buzzer put the Vikings up 17-15.

Bryan grabbed a 23-20 lead with 6:22 left in the half, thanks to Titus Rohrer’s layup and a Connor Arthur steal and score.

Evergreen came right back on Bryce Hudik’s baseline drive to slice the Bryan lead to a point, then after Connor Lemons put the Bears back up three, Brighton went to work again.

The 6’4” junior scored easy baskets on penetration moves by Hudik and Chandler Lumbrezer to regain a Viking lead at 26-25, before Jack Etue’s triple pushed Evergreen’s lead to four with 3:25 to go in the second.

After a Rohrer score inside, Loeffler again provided a buzzer-beating bucket, with a pull up jumper to keep the Viking lead at four.

Rohrer’s three-point play gave Bryan a 30-29 margin early in the third, but the Vikings rang up eight straight to take a seven point lead.

Lumbrezer and Nic Borojevich drilled back-to-back triples and Loeffler’s transition layup made it 37-30 at the 5:51 mark.

Caleb Zuver brought Bryan back with a pair of off-balance triples but Loeffler countered with two of his own from outside the arc, keeping Evergreen up 47-42 before Rohrer canned a pair from the foul stripe with 28 ticks left to get Bryan back to a one possession game heading into the fourth.

In the fourth it was Rohrer again and again, offsetting triples from Brighton and Loeffler with 10 points, including three buckets off the offensive glass to give the Bears a 58-57 lead with 40 seconds on the clock.

Twelve seconds later Brighton came through, when after getting position inside, he was fouled and dropped both through the bottom of the net to give the Vikings a one point lead again.

Bryan tried to work the left side on the ensuing possession but Lumbrezer and Borojevich pushed the Bears out of their scheme to force a timeout with 5.4 on the clock.

Bryan couldn’t get the lob to the 6’6” Rohrer they wanted, and Borojevich was all over Zuver when he tried a hurried triple that was off the mark to give the Vikings their 18th win.

“Chandler put great pressure on the ball in that last sequence,” explained Keifer of the Bears last chance plays. “Everyone else cut off the passing lanes and then on the last shot Nic had great pressure on the shooter and Nate battled their bigs for the rebound well. He didn’t secure it but batted it out into the corner where basically it ran out the clock.”

Loeffler scored 22 to lead Evergreen, while Brighton added 20 on 8 of 9 shooting.

Rohrer was the only Bear in double figures with 23.

“The Rohrer kid is the real deal,” said Keifer of the Bryan sophomore. “He had 23 and we didn’t stop him in the fourth quarter. So to get out of here with a one point victory and be 18-4, we’ll take it.”

Evergreen plays Lake at Clay High School Wednesday night in the first round of the Division III sectional tournament.

Vikes dominate inside versus Stryker

Assistant boys basketball coach Bruce Smith is to the Evergreen Vikings as Josh McDaniels is to the New England Patriots…an offensive guru.

After a slow first quarter start, Evergreen rode the inside play of Nate Brighton and Mason Loeffler – as well as hitting 21 of their last 29 shots – to a 64-48 win over Stryker last Monday.

Evergreen is now 17-4, while the BBC-leading Panthers fell to 16-6.

“We’ve got two guys inside that are pretty good when they want to play,” Smith said of the Vikings’ junior duo.

“We thought we had a size advantage if not against (Stryker’s 6’5” Chase) Glock, then against the other defender. Both Mason and Nate did a real good job inside when they caught the ball. Not only making baskets but getting to the free throw line and making free throws.”

Despite a trio of first quarter triples, two from Loeffler and another by Nic Borojevich, the Vikes missed five layups in the first eight minutes, and trailed 12-11 when Izayah Ferguson nailed a pull up jumper in the last 45 seconds of the quarter.

Brighton scored the Vikings first six of the second, but Ferguson and Luke Holsopple countered with a flurry of baskets that led to a 23-18 Panther lead with 3:28 left.

That’s when the Vikings went to work inside and finished the half on a 10-2 burst.

Loeffler scored on an out-of-bounds play, Brighton slashed the key for a deuce, Bryce Hudik went baseline for a reverse layup, Brighton again scored from in tight, and Jack Etue went baseline for a stop and lay-in that gave Evergreen a 28-25 lead.

Everyone got into the act in the third as Evergreen blew the game open.

Brighton and Loeffler each scored seven points, Borojevich hit his second from behind the arc, and Chandler Lumbrezer scored twice, the second a swoop from the right side for a bank at the buzzer that gave the Vikes a 49-35 lead.

Glock hit half of his Panther high of 16 in the fourth but the Vikings continued to expand the lead.

Lumbrezer got inside for a score, Brighton went up and under against Glock for another, Loeffler hit a jumper from 15, then Hudik and Brighton each scored in transition for a 61-40 lead with three minutes left.

“It makes you tougher to cover when you have three, four or even five guys who are capable of having a big game or leading scorer that particular night,” Smith said of the Vikings’ diversity.

“Generally speaking we say inside out. So our bigger guys might score a little more than our guards. But on many occasions in big games our guards have played very well.

“When you have inside, outside opportunities it just makes us better.”

The Vikings, after shooting just 4 of 13 in the first quarter, finished 25 of 42 from the field.

Brighton got 24 points while taking just 11 shots, and speared 16 rebounds as the Vikings held a 28-19 advantage on the glass. Loeffler added 19 points.

“Anytime we can get north of 40 points with those two guys we are going to play pretty well,” Smith said.

Stryker was 21 for 50 from the field. Each team had just seven turnovers.

By Joe Blystone

For the Enterprise

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