At times it looked more like Hockey Night in Canada rather than the opening night of basketball season.
However, after Oregon Clay grabbed, push and tried to bully Evergreen, it was the Vikings who handled the toughness of the game better in a 57-42 win Friday in boys basketball.
“It was a very physical game,” explained Viking coach Jerry Keifer who chalked up win number 384 in his stellar career. “They are a Division I school with Division I type athletes who play very hard. If you don’t play hard for (Clay Coach Joel Visser) you don’t play. It took us a few minutes to adjust.”
Clay opened up a 12-8 early lead thanks to a trio of long-range shots, the last a high-arcing off the top of the square shot from Evin Baker.
However the Vikings responded.
Evan Lumbrezer went baseline for a reverse layup, Eli Keifer hit two from the line, then slashed the key for a layup to gain a 15-14 lead at the quarter break.
That mini foray ballooned to a major scoring burst in the second as Evergreen heated up on defense and turned that energy into easy hoops on the other end.
RJ Shunck hit from above the left of the key, then scored three times inside, twice from dishes from Keifer.
Lumbrezer found Ethan Loeffler for a wide open layup and Tyson Woodring went coast-to-coast off a loose ball to cap a 20-4 explosion and a 28-16 Viking lead.
“We did adjust and got a couple baskets out of our offense then a couple of leak outs and despite a couple of things, we felt pretty good going in up more than 10 at half.”
Evergreen’s 33-22 lead was thanks to 62 percent shooting, but no thanks to eight missed free throws.
Keifer hit a left-side triple, Lumbrezer fleeced Baker for a steal and score, and two buckets inside by Shunck and Loeffler padded the margin to 44-28 late in the third.
The Vikings got sloppy with five turnovers — all unforced — and Lucas Jeremy hit two radar-range howitzers to get Clay back to 44-37 early in the fourth.
Again Evergreen responded with a lengthy run.
Clay went one and out as Brock Hudik cleaned the glass with five of his team-high nine boards.
Woodring found Loeffler inside, then Lumbrezer scored eight straight.
Four from the foul stripe were the result of two hard, no play on the ball hacks.
The senior guard scored on a stop-and-go move and a spin that left Eagle defenders frozen, and regained a 54-39 edge.
“It was good to get win number one,” expressed Coach Keifer. “We have a long way to go and a lot of basketball against very good teams coming up. We have to get better with a couple things.”
Shunck scored 17 and added seven boards. Lumbrezer added 15 and five steals. Loeffler chipped in with 11.
However, Evergreen committed 17 turnovers while forcing 18, and the normally solid Viking free throw shooting was subpar with 15 misses.
Evergreen goes on the road for three straight, the first in Toledo tonight to face one of the best recruited teams in Ohio in Emmanuel Christian Academy.
One of the best Division III teams around, the Swanton Bulldogs, and highly-touted Otsego are Evergreen’s opponents this weekend.