The last week of the regular season is the last chance for teams out of their league race to prepare for the upcoming OHSAA tournament.
In what has been an up-and-down season for Jerry Keifer’s Evergreen Vikings, Monday night was on the “up” side heading toward the tournament trail in a 60-29 beating of Stryker to move the Vikings to 8-13 on the season.
The Vikings roared out of the blocks with a harassing press that fueled an 11-0 run to start the game.
Bryce Hudik was the major contributor in that stretch by hitting a pair of three-balls and picking up another pair of hoops of the steal-and-score variety.
Chad Ruffer’s triple and four points from Hayden Clingaman kept the Panthers in contact but Hudik scored on an out-of-bounds play layup and fellow freshman Chandler Lumbrezer drained a triple to give Evergreen a 16-9 lead at the break.
“What the press did for us tonight is it got us going,” explained Keifer. “We got some breakaway layups that set the tone. We hit a couple of threes that got our adrenaline going and when we rotated in, we never lost that energy and drive. That’s what pleased me the most is that we played 10 kids tonight and every one of them played as hard as they possibly could.”
The Panthers made a mini run at Evergreen in the second quarter on Izayah Ferguson’s three-pointer and pair of free throws, but the Vikings Phoenix VanOstrand accounted for every Viking point in the stanza to keep the Evergreen lead at six by halftime.
After steals off the press, VanOstrand fed Hudik and Josh Dowling for layups, then the lengthy junior got to the rim on feeds from Peyton Pawlaczyk and Alec Truckor before Dowling returned the previous favor as VanOstrand scored with 2.3 on the clock for a 26-20 halftime lead.
A 10-0 burst to start the second half and a 15-3 third quarter in essence put the game away for Evergreen.
Nick Etue scored on a fastbreak to start the quarter, then fed Truckor for a layup in transition.
Truckor took a backcut feed from VanOstrand that he turned into a three-point play before Etue hit a foul line jumper to make it 36-20.
Lumbrezer’s second three-ball at the end of the quarter bumped that lead to 41-23 heading into the fourth that the Vikings continued to extend the rest of the game.
“We got some things tonight that we have been getting in previous games, but tonight we finished possessions for the most part,” said Keifer. “We had 20 assists in 24 baskets, that means we are sharing the basketball extremely well and that’s the way we need to play if we’re going to win. Our goal is to get to Central Catholic (for the Division III district tournament), and the only way we are going to get there is if we play the way we did tonight and it’s encouraging that we got it done tonight and move on.”
Hudik led an extremely balanced Viking attack with 16, including 12 in the first quarter. Truckor was the only other Viking that hit double figures with 10 as nine different Evergreen players hit the scoring column.
Clingaman and Ferguson each had seven for Stryker.
Evergreen (8-13) travels to Delta Friday to finish the NWOAL and regular season slate before traveling to Oak Harbor for the first round of the Division III sectional tournament against Otsego next Wednesday.
Joe Blystone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org