In his career at Evergreen High School, Viking basketball coach Jerry Keifer has a lengthy list of accomplishments on his resume.’
The veteran mentor has led the Vikings to a pair of NWOAL titles, 12 sectional championships and three district crowns in 1998, 2000 and 2006.
Keifer can now add another milestone as his Vikings rallied from a 12-point first half deficit to knock off Montpelier, 56-51, netting him coaching victory number 300 before a raucous and vocal crowd at Evergreen Friday night.
“I’m kind of relieved a little bit,” said Keifer, humbly speaking of notching the 300 mark. “It means I’ve had a whole lot of really good basketball players over the last 22 years. You don’t win that many games in that period of time without really good basketball players and we’ve had really good coaches with me. I can name every assistant coach I’ve had in 22 years. It’s just really special, I remember my first game coaching we lost on a half court shot and I’ll always remember this one the way it played out.”
The Vikes lost starting point guard, and leading scorer and rebounder, Nick Etue, in the first quarter to an ankle injury and fell behind 21-9 early in the second as the Locos Michael Blake and Kolden Uribes combined for 13 points during that span.
However with Etue out, Teagen Pinkelman stepped up.
The junior guard scored seven second quarter points that included a three-ball, a backcut hoop from Peyton Pawlaczyk and a pair from the foul line that more than halved the Locos lead at 23-18 by halftime.
Chandler Lumbrezer’s three-pointer 20 seconds into the second half got the Vikes within a basket but Blake’s triple and three-point play surged the Locos back up 29-21 with 6:38 left in the stanza.
Enter the next bunch of Viking heroes on the night.
Alec Truckor drove for consecutive hoops around Kyrin Schuman’s hoop and Bryce Hudik stuck a triple to get Evergreen back within three at 31-28.
Dalton Surbey’s basket off the offensive glass with 2:35 left in the quarter bumped the Locos back up 35-30, but the Vikings got a three-ball from an unlikely source in Pawlaczyk and then a rebound basket from Phoenix VanOstrand with 39 ticks left to knot the score at 35 heading into the fourth.
“Alec Truckor really got us going in the second half,” explained Keifer. “Alec Truckor goes to the basket twice and there’s no way he can get them off and he scores.
“Phoenix VanOstrand did a really nice job on the boards tonight and so did Teagen Pinkelman (six rebounds each) and I thought we did a lot better job in the second half playing defense.”
Josh Dowling ignited a 10-2 run with a three-point play giving the Vikings their first lead since early in the first quarter.
After Schuman scored on a jumper from the foul line, Hudik got to the rim for another three-point play, Dowling scored on a back door cut from Pinkelman and Hudik did the same from VanOstrand to put Evergreen up 45-37 with 2:27 left.
A pair of buckets from Uribes helped Montpelier get within 45-42 with 1:18 left but the Vikings converted enough of 14 free throw attempts down the stretch, the last two by Pawlaczyk with 2.6 seconds left to counter three point baskets by Uribes and Blake to seal number 300 for their 22 year coach.
“We came to the conclusion that we were going to have to grind it out and every possession we moved the ball really well and got some good wide open three’s and some passes to people going to the basket and we passed it seven or eight times. It kind of takes you back a few years when we were slow and very methodical but we just had to be that way tonight because Montpeiler is just so explosive with the ball in their hands. If you turn it over or miss a shot they are just down the floor.
“I guess the bigger thing than the 300 is that we are 6-8 right now (with as much youth as we have). I’m more excited about having the six wins at this point in the season than I am about the 300 wins. That’s what’s exciting is without our point guard we’re 6-8 after beating a good team.”
The loss dropped the Locos to 8-5 on the year. Uribes’ 19 and Blake’s 17 led the Locos.
Dowling and Hudik each had 10 to lead a very balanced Viking attack with eight of Dowling’s coming in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings now host Bryan in an NWOAL contest Friday night before traveling to North Central on Saturday.
Joe Blystone can be reached at [email protected]