Way back in the beginning of the basketball season, some unnamed, bonehead reporter said that Evergreen’s interior defense in their opening week loss to Swanton was just like Charmin.
Those words infuriated Evergreen, and like a pressure cooker on a timer, the Vikings let those words stew and simmer for six weeks.
Friday night that pressure cooker exploded as Evergreen withstood a first half barrage of Swanton three-pointers, used balanced scoring and allowed just nine second half points in a 58-38 win before a large and electric Viking crowd.
Jack Etue’s triple from the left corner 45 seconds into the game gave the Vikings a lead they never relinquished, and began a five minute scoring burst that put Evergreen up 17-6, with Etue marking 11 of those.
“You can’t say enough about the game that Jack Etue had,” veteran coach Jerry Keifer said. “People think that our team is centered around two, four-year starters (in Nate Brighton and Mason Loeffler) that are very, very good. And that may have been before, but not now.”
Etue hit another triple, then got a three-point play on a dish from Evan Lumbrezer.
Lumbrezer went solo down the key for a score and Loeffler’s steal and slam put Evergreen up nine before Etue finished the run with a putback at the 3:01 mark.
Andrew Thornton’s three-pointer and another from Trent Weigel got the Bulldogs within 19-12 before Shane Ruetz’ baseline jumper at the buzzer boosted the Vikings back up 21-12 at the quarter.
The three-pointers continued to fly in the second quarter as Josh Vance and Weigel each hit from long distance to pry Swanton back to a five-point deficit at 23-18.
A Ruetz putback, Lumbrezer’s dish to Loeffler for another slam, and Brighton’s drive and score pushed the Vikings back up 29-19.
Brighton’s one-on-on drive from the top of the key and a CJ Hauk three-ball kept the lead at 10, but Vance hit Swanton’s eighth triple of the first half, and Weigel scored on a rebound off an airball at the buzzer to chop the Viking lead to 34-29 at halftime.
The Bulldogs went 8 of 17 from beyond the arc in the first 16 minutes to counter Evergreen’s 65 percent from the floor (15-23), but that would soon change.
Vance’s drive and score – only the second Swanton score in the paint all night – got Swanton within one score 37 seconds into the third.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get.
Thirteen seconds later Etue again hit from long distance to begin a 10-0 run.
Loeffler scored twice – the second on another dime from Lumbrezer – and Brighton dropped a triple from the top of the circle to surge the Vikings to a 44-31 lead that stayed at 13 entering the fourth.
“Swanton shot the ball extremely well in the first half from three,” said Keifer. “In the second half we made some adjustments and I thought we did a really nice job making it tougher to get open looks.”
This time it was Ethan Loeffler’s turn as the sophomore who had been silent the first 24 minutes, scored the first seven Viking points and grabbed five of his game-high seven rebounds in the quarter.
Lumbrezer found Ethan Loeffler for a three-point play, then after Vance hit his third triple of the night for the Bulldogs, the younger Loeffler scooped up a loose ball for a hoop. He then scored on yet another Viking stickback – their fifth of the night – for a 53-36 lead.
“Jack, Evan Lumbrezer and Ethan Loeffler, especially last week against Liberty Center. CJ especially against Stritch. Shane Ruetz hit big baskets tonight, three of them. Everyone is now contributing where maybe back in week one that wasn’t the case,” expressed Keifer. “That just makes us that much better that we don’t have to rely on Mason and Nate to win.
“Tonight they tried to double Mason and they tried to double Nate. And when they did, we would get a layup or someone would hit a timely three.
“People come out and try to shut those two down and when we get scoring from everyone else, we’re pretty good.
“What made tonight special was the contributions we got from everyone else. They were good. They were good offensively, they were good defensively. That’s the difference, write about those other five kids, because that was the difference.”
For the game, Evergreen ended up 24 of 38 from the floor for 63 percent. After starting 8 for 17, Swanton was 9 for 26 from outside the three-point line for the game.
Evergreen owned a 31-13 advantage on the glass.
Etue led a balanced Evergreen attack with 18 points, while Mason Loeffler had 10 to go along seven rebounds and four steals. Ruetz and Hauk combined for 5 for 5 from the floor and 12 points off the bench.
Vance had 13 to lead Swanton.
Evergreen is now 9-1 and 2-0 in the NWOAL heading into a clash with state-ranked Lenawee Christian out of Michigan Tuesday at Evergreen. Swanton, now 6-6 and 0-2 in the league, travels to Fayette (6-6) Tuesday night.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org