LIBERTY CENTER – No one broke a bone.
No one ended up in concussion protocol.
And when a game filled with hip checks and hammers was over, Evergreen had used a 20-6 first quarter burst, and handled foul difficulty better than Liberty Center to take a 60-47 win over the Tigers Thursday in the NWOAL opener for both teams.
Evergreen moved their record to 8-1 on the year.
“I think Liberty Center is a very good basketball team. When we watched tape all week, we felt they were very solid,” Viking coach Jerry Keifer said. “They have great athletes and good size and they are physical as physical can be.
“Anytime you get a big win, a league win on the road, it’s a positive step going forward.”
While the Tigers tried to root Nate Brighton out of the post and body up Mason Loeffler everywhere he went, it was Evan Lumbrezer who ignited the opening blitz when he shot down the key for a layup that gave Evergreen a lead they never gave up.
It would be the first of numerous times the Vikings’ sophomore point guard got to the rim.
Brighton and Loeffler each scored three-point plays for an 8-4 Viking lead before Evergreen ripped off the next 10 points.
Mason Loeffler’s backcut bucket from Jack Etue, Brighton’s third-chance putback, then Mason Loeffler nailed a long range triple before feeding Ethan Loeffler for a bucket and an 18-4 bulge before the Vikes settled for a 20-6 lead after one.
“I thought the first quarter set the tone,” explained Keifer of the early scoring blast. “We came out and executed really well. We made shots (8-11 in the quarter) and we came down and defended well.”
Through the quarter, fouls piled up for both teams and during the second the Tigers’ Carter Burdue and Trent Murdock each picked up a pair, with Murdock actually being whistled for his third and fourth before half.
However, Brighton sat down early in the second with two fouls and Mason Loeffler picked up his second and had to play cautious the rest of the first 16 minutes.
Having to turn to another source of offense, Lumbrezer with two stop-and-go moves to the basket, CJ Houk with a corner three-pointer and Ethan Loeffler scoring a second time on a feed from his brother, increased the Viking margin to 29-12. Burdue countered with a triple and had a steal and score to cut the lead to 31-18 at the break.
Murdock scored twice inside and Burdue drove for another bucket to get Liberty back within 33-26 with 4:45 left in the third.
Four times the Tigers answered Viking baskets to stay within seven but could get no closer.
This time Evergreen answered with an Ethan Loeffler triple from the left corner, then Lumbrezer went 2 for 2 from the stripe that boosted the Vikings back up 44-32 entering the fourth.
“Both sophomores (Ethan Loeffler and Lumbrezer), had great nights,” Keifer said. “Ethan really picked up the slack when Nate went out in the second quarter, and Evan was good. He was quick and very confident which I really liked. He knew what he wanted to do when he got the ball and he did it.”
Burdue fouled out 10 seconds into the fourth, then picked up a “T” for his comments to the officiating crew from the bench, but the Tigers got back within 45-37 when Camden Krugh tripled and Aaron Shafer hit two from the foul line with 6:27 left.
Connor Keller’s prayer off the high glass with 5:11 left kept the Tigers at that same eight point deficit, but Evergreen countered with a two-minute 11-2 blast to put the game away.
Mason Loeffler hit a three-ball, then Lumbrezer knocked home two free throws to make it 52-39.
Shafer got back two at the line, but Ethan Loeffler’s stickback off his own miss, Mason Loeffler’s high-flying slam and two free throws from Brighton regained the Vikes largest lead at 58-41.
For the game, Evergreen was just under 50 percent from the floor at 20 of 41. Liberty Center was 17 of 41.
Both teams had 12 turnovers and the Vikings outrebounded the Tigers, 28-24.
Mason Loeffler had 20 points and five assists to pace Evergreen. Ethan Loeffler had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Lumbrezer added 12 in a well-balanced Evergreen attack.
Shafer and Murdock each had 12 for Liberty Center who slipped back to the .500 mark at 5-5.
Evergreen next hosts Swanton (6-5, 0-1 NWOAL) in league play this Friday. They then welcome Pettisville on Saturday.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org