Joel Visser had a tough task facing him as the new boys basketball coach at Swanton this year.
With only a couple of returning players, he had to piece things together like a jigsaw puzzle and hope everything fit.
What he found was a combination of good defense, a lot of hustle and used that to beat the highly touted Evergreen Vikings 40-39.
“The defense was good,” explained Visser. “The effort was there. If we are willing to work that hard and play defense like that in games we are going to be OK.
“At times we struggle to score but like the story goes, if the other team doesn’t score they can’t beat you.”
That analogy came to light right away.
Bryce Hudik scored off the tip and hit a triple to help Evergreen to a 7-3 lead in the first minute and a half then….nothing.
The listless Vikings didn’t score for over nine minutes and didn’t hit a field goal until Josh Dowling drove to the rim with 1:26 left in the half.
In between there were 16 straight Viking misses and nearly an offensive rebound as the short Bulldogs outhustled and outmuscled Evergreen to almost every 50-50 ball.
As for the Bulldogs? They didn’t set the world on fire shooting 27 percent in the first half, but got to the rim twice in the form of Randy Slink, and one each from Hunter Mix and freshman Andrew Thornton to take a 18-14 lead.
Mason Loeffler’s two baskets, one off a Dowling steal got Evergreen within 20-19.
Nate Brighton hit an up and under move, Dowling scored on a curl cut that turned into a three-point play, Loeffler hit a foul line jumper and a triple to give Evergreen their biggest lead at 29-22 lead with 1:25 left in the third.
Jared Wilson’s triple got Swanton within 29-25 before Chandler Lumbrezer’s tip helped the Vikes go back up seven at 32-25.
Then just like in the season opening win over Lake, the Bulldog defense took control in the fourth.
While the Vikings seemingly stood and misfired, Dylan Gilsdorf hit big shot after big shot to bring the Bulldogs back with a baseline jumper, then a turnaround to help get them within 35-32.
“Our quarterback, our captain and our leader hit some big buckets for us and he led us,” said Visser.
Then it was Slink with a transition hoop and another on one of those loose balls off the glass for a 36-35 lead with 3:01 left.
Another Gilsdorf turnaround made it 38-35 before Loeffler finally hit for the Vikings with 1:44 to go.
Dowling made yet another big play with a steal and score with 45 seconds left to regain a 39-38 lead for the Vikes but freshman Josh Vance got loose in transition eight seconds later, giving Swanton a 40-39 lead.
Vance had a chance to give the Bulldogs a bigger lead but misfired on the front end of a one-and-one with seven seconds to go to give Evergreen one more shot, but Brighton’s jumper that was on line hit front iron and gave Swanton the victory.
“If we sit down on defense and play, and get to loose balls, it’s going to be enough to let us hang around,” stated Visser. “We have to find ways to be more effective scoring but that will come with time.”
No Bulldog reached double figures as Slink and Vance each had nine points.
Loeffler had 19 for Evergreen who shot just 31 percent for the game and was outrebounded 25-24 by the Bulldogs.
However, Swanton (2-1) was defeated at home 46-29 against Delta in another non-league game on Saturday. Evergreen dropped to 1-2 on the year with a 56-51 loss on the road to Otsego.
The Bulldogs host North Central this Saturday while Evergreen welcomes Cardinal Stritch Thursday and Ayersville on Saturday.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com