Evergreen came out shooting white hot in the first 10 minutes to take a 20-point lead, then had to survive a big Swanton rally and missed free throws down the stretch to take a 64-62 win before a large and electric crowd at Evergreen Friday night.
“I thought the last five minutes of the game when it got close, we made plays,” said Evergreen veteran coach Jerry Keifer. “I mean we weren’t stopping them on the other end and they weren’t stopping us either.”
The Bulldogs didn’t stop the Vikings at all in the first quarter.
After Mason Loeffler and Duyane Goings traded hoops, the Viking freshman nailed back-to-back three-balls to give Evergreen an 8-2 lead.
Gunnar Oakes scored off the offensive glass for the Bulldogs but the Vikings responded with a 12-2 run.
Loeffler nailed a baseline jumper and yet another triple, fellow freshman Nate Brighton hit a three from the top of the key, Phoenix VanOstrand took a feed from Josh Dowling inside for a score and Bryce Hudik scored off the glass, giving Evergreen a 20-6 lead. That lead expanded to 23-7 when Chandler Lumbrezer struck from way out with 17 ticks left in the first.
That lead ballooned to 30-10 with just under six minutes left in the half when Lumbrezer scored on a high-low pass from Austin Blanton, then on a pump and go move down the slot and Blanton scored while slicing down the baseline.
However, the senior dominated Bulldogs responded.
The Bulldogs scored again and again off second chances off the offensive as after four straight free throws, Nick Koback hit a three after a Bulldog offensive rebound, Oakes scored on the third try, and Goings hit back-to-back inside to chop the Viking lead to 41-32 by halftime.
Brighton and Lumbrezer each scored on drives early in the third to get Evergreen back up double digits but again Swanton controlled the glass on the offensive end, using three of their 23 offensive rebounds for baskets by Goings and two from Oakes to slice the lead to 45-41 with 3:41 left in the quarter.
VanOstrand responded with a baseline jumper and one from the foul line, and Hudik drilled a triple to offset Zach Dziengelewski’s putback and one from Tanner Prentice to take a 52-47 lead into the fourth quarter.
VanOstrand scored again inside to open the fourth but Randy Slink hit a triple, Oakes scored on a drive and split a pair from the line to get Swanton within a point at 54-53.
Lumbrezer scored on a give-and-go from VanOstrand and Loeffler drove the key for a hoop but Koback struck again from the left corner to keep Swanton within a basket at 58-56 at the 3:20 mark.
Evergreen spread the floor and Dowling took a back door pass from VanOstrand for a bucket with 2:05 to go.
Oakes came right back with a three-point play seven seconds later to get Swanton back within a point, 60-59.
Loeffler laced a triple with 1:34 left to put the Vikes up 63-59, and after a Bulldog miss, Lumbrezer had a chance to extend the lead but came up empty with 49 seconds left.
Koback took advantage by sticking another from the left corner to again get Swanton back to 63-62.
Loeffler went to the line 13 seconds later but could only get one of two giving Swanton a chance to tie or take a lead.
This time with Hudik flying at him in the corner, Koback misfired.
Lumbrezer again had a chance to ice the game with 3.3 seconds from the line but rimmed out the first shot, however, Shirk’s pass up court was too long as the Vikes hung on for the win.
“I’m pleased the way we battled back,” said Bulldog coach Matt Smith. “I mean every shot they took in the first quarter I’m going ‘that’s going in, that’s going in, what they shot was incredible.
“We’re still trying to get in shape a little and get our wings under us, we’ll get there. It was a good experience for a lot of inexperienced players. Evergreen played well and shot it well.”
“I would like to say that last five minutes was coaching” explained Keifer. “But they were just playing basketball and making a basketball play in a critical part of the game.
“I love the fact that we’re making plays now because sometime we are gonna be really good. Right now we are making plays, kids are making plays that have their moms picking them up after practice because they aren’t old enough to drive yet.”
Swanton held a huge 43-20 advantage on the boards, including 23 on the offensive end.
“They have three 18 year old grown men there,” said Keifer. “And like I said we have kids whose mom picks them up so we did battle there. If we would’ve showed the same effort tonight as we did against North Central rebounding it wouldn’t have been 43-20 it would’ve been 63-10.”
Oakes led all scorers with 25 points while Koback had 12 on his four three-pointers in the Bulldogs’ opener.
Loeffler led Evergreen with 18, Lumbrezer came off the bench for 15, and Hudik had 10 for the Vikings who lost to Otsego 50-42 Saturday.
Swanton returns to action Saturday when they are at North Central. Evergreen (2-1) is at Cardinal Stritch this Thursday.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org