Playing two teams with a combined 9-0 record in the span of three days is a good measuring stick to find out where your team is early in the season and as far as the Evergreen Vikings, they came up short both times, losing to highly touted Cardinal Stritch 57-54 Thursday and Ayersville 48-42 on Saturday.
Against Stritch, Evergreen fell behind early at 9-5 as Jordan Burton hit three straight first quarter hoops.
That lead bumped up to 22-14 in the second as the Cardinals man-child Terance Taylor got inside twice and Little Anderson scored off the glass.
However, Nate Brighton brought the Vikings back, hitting back-to-back triples before Mason Loeffler scored off the glass to forge a 22-22 tie with 1:33 left in the half.
Joey Holifield’s basket with 12 seconds left was countered by Bryce Hudik’s pair from the line three ticks before the buzzer to make it 24 all at intermission.
Josh Dowling’s three-point play to open the second half gave Evergreen a 27-24 lead, and after Stritch fought back to tie at 31 all on Collin Yost’s triple, Loeffler answered at the 3:38 mark to regain a three point lead at 34-31.
Again Stritch battled back to tie at the third quarter horn on Ashton Caryer’s hoop and then parlayed that into a 49-42 lead with 5:16 left in the game on Anderson’s triple from the top of the key.
However, with the Vikings going to the rim, they began a parade to the foul line as Hudik and Dowling combined for nine straight points, including 7 of 8 from the foul stripe to give Evergreen a 51-49 lead with 1:13 left.
But Burton with a more than NBA continuation play that drew a foul, tied the game with 1:09 left and then after Loeffler missed at the other end, Burton scored again to give Stritch a 53-51 lead with 36 seconds left.
Chandler Lumbrezer came up big with a rebound basket that turned into a three-point play with 23 seconds left to give Evergreen a 54-53 lead, but Anderson countered as he went to the foul line with 12 seconds left and hit both ends to give Stritch a one point lead.
Loeffler had a chance to put Evergreen ahead, but his runner off the right side was short and Yost’ pair from the line iced the game for Stritch.
Burton’s 18 points led the undefeated Cardinals.
Loeffler’s 16 led Evergreen while Dowling and Brighton each had 10.
Ayersville shot 67 percent in the first half to the Vikings 29 and raced out to as much as a 27-9 lead fueled by a 21-0 run.
With Evergreen up 9-6 after a Lumbrezer triple, the Vikings went ice cold and Kyle Nicely and Ethan Schlactter combined for 15 of those points to put the Pilots way up with 3:46 left in the half.
Evergreen battled back as Dowling hit on a drive and a three-ball from the left wing in the last 90 seconds of the half to get Evergreen within 31-18 at the break.
The Vikings sliced into that lead even more in the third as Loeffler scored nine points in the quarter to help get Evergreen back to a single-digit deficit at 39-32.
That lead closed even more when Dowling and Lumbrezer got back-to-back hoops to get Evergreen within 41-38 with 3:58 left.
But the Vikes misfired four straight times downcourt and Christian Zachrich’s triple with 2:15 left pushed the lead back to a full two possessions at 44-38.
Twice Dowling got Evergreen to within four, the last with a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left, but Evergreen could get no closer.
For the game, Evergreen was just 15 of 49 from the field and 11 of 41, removing Dowling’s 4 of 8 from the equation.
After their hot start, the Vikings pressured Ayersville into a 6 for 26 second half to get back into the game.
Loeffler’s 16 and Dowling’s 13 led Evergreen who fell to 1-4 with those four losses by a combined 16 points.
Ayersville remained unbeaten, pushing their record to 5-0.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org