Vikings beat Bryan to claim NWOAL title outright

By Joe Blystone - For the Expositor

Back during football season, Bryan’s PA announcer would only refer to the Evergreen players by number.

Like the Fort Minor song goes, “Remember the Name”, and the names were every Viking who stepped on the floor as each made contributions in a Northwest Ohio Athletic League outright-title-clinching 41-36 win over the Golden Bears before a packed house at Evergreen Friday night.

“We weren’t our best,” said Viking coach Jerry Keifer, who has been the mentor of every NWOAL Viking title team. “But everyone made a play to help us win this game. And we had that stretch where we were very, very good defensively in the second quarter into the second half.”

It took over four minutes for the Vikings to get out of the gate as they misfired in the first four attempts from the floor.

Titus Rohrer’s jumper and Connor Arthur’s triple paced Bryan to a five point lead before Mason Loeffler found CJ Hauk on a backdoor pass for a layup with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

Bryan took a 7-4 lead into the second but Nate Brighton nailed a left-wing 3-pointer to bring the Vikes even with 6:31 left in the half.

Rohrer’s jumper had Bryan up 9-8 but Ethan Loeffler cleaned the offensive glass for what turned into a three-point play to give Evergreen an 11-9 lead.

The Vikings never trailed again.

The three-point play by Loeffler lit the fuse on an 18-2 run that spanned the next eight minutes, getting into the third quarter.

Jack Etue hit a triple, Evan Lumbrezer found Mason Loeffler inside for a layup, and Etue hit Brighton twice for easy scores. Then, Brighton hit Ethan Loeffler for a layin and Etue for a long three-ball to give Evergreen a 26-11 lead with 4:15 to go in the third.

“Mason wasn’t his best tonight, Nate wasn’t his best either, but Jack was really good and Ethan was really good,” explained Keifer. “This was a great example of how connected these guys are. The thing they care about is the 21 wins so far.”

Bryan came right back with 11 straight, including 5-for-5 from the foul line and triples from Rohrer and Caleb Zuver to get within 26-22; however, Lumbrezer locked in on Etue for a slash to the rim for a layup to regain a six point lead at the quarter horn.

After Mason Loeffler’s 3-pointer starting the fourth got Evergreen up 31-22, the teams traded hoops for the next five plus minutes with Etue taking a feed from Lumbrezer for a basket with 2:33 left to maintain the Vikings’ nine-point lead.

After an Evergreen turnover and a front-end miss on the bonus by Brighton at the line, Arthur could only manage 2 of 4 from the stripe and Rohrer’s dunk with 1:49 left got Bryan to a five-point deficit.

Again the normally very reliable Brighton misfired from the line but after Zuver missed at the other end from the baseline, the Vikings’ senior post took a transition dish from Lumbrezer and split two defenders for an earth-shaking slam that locked up the Vikes’ clean sweep of the NWOAL season.

Evergreen shot just 16-for-37 from the field but held the bigger Golden Bears to 11-for-40.

Evergreen also held a 30-24 edge on the glass, including 10 from Brighton and eight more rebounds by Ethan Loeffler.

Rohrer led everyone scoring wise with 13 points, while the Vikings had a very balanced attack as Brighton had 12 and Etue 11.

Lumbrezer didn’t score a point but the smallest person on the floor had maybe the biggest effect as Evergreen’s sophomore point guard had six assists and three steals while committing just two turnovers.

“He has had that stat line before,” Keifer said of his floor leader. “He affected the game in such a huge way and he also had some big boards in the second half. He rebounds very well for a point guard.

“Obviously I’m excited, we’re excited. This is one of the goals that we set and now we want to hang two banners in the same year which we haven’t done. We have either won the league or won a district but never both in the same year so that is our next goal.”

The three league titles under Keifer’s belt matches the three district titles the Vikings have under his command.

Evergreen, now standing at 21-1, plays the winner of the Van Buren-Otsego game this Friday in a Division III sectional final at Springfield at 6:15 p.m.

By Joe Blystone

For the Expositor

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