By Dave Pearce
If North Posey High School boys’ basketball coach Heath Howington had to choose which game he would rather win this past weekend, he would have chosen the conference game on Saturday night at South Spencer.
But his budding North Posey Vikings took the choice-making away from their young coach by beating South Knox on Friday night and turning around and defeating a very talented 9-4 South Spencer team on Saturday night in Reo. The win leaves the Vikings in the thick of the conference race at 4-1 while the Rebels fell to 3-1 in the Pocket Athletic Conference.
Howington credited members of his staff for the diligence and hard work in having the team ready to turn around so quickly after a tough “grind” win on Friday night and ready for the big game on Saturday.
“Our coaching staff did an excellent job of getting our guys prepared,” a satisfied Howington said following the pair of wins. “Our assistant coaches were instrumental in both wins.”
In a game in which even the crew of officials deemed a “very well-played basketball game,” it looked like it might come down to whoever had the ball last as neither team could edge much ahead of the other all evening. It’s a good thing for the Vikings that it didn’t come down to that.
Leading 50-48, the Vikings were awarded the ball after South Spencer had two shots to either tie or take the lead with just seconds remaining. But the Rebels could not capitalize and the Vikings were awarded the ball following an obvious foul with just seven seconds remaining.
That’s when things got even more interesting. Howington called a time out and it appeared that the Vikings’ sixth sin in their last seven starts was academic. All the Vikings had to do was get the ball inbounds and run out the clock or make free throws. Obviously that’s sometimes easier said than done.
The Rebels forced a turnover on the inbounds play and former North Posey administrator and basketball official Matthew Reid accurately awarded the Rebels a time out as the Rebel who came up with the steal was in the air on the way out of bounds.
The Rebels said up a play that would find one of their three efficient 3-point shooters open in the corner. The shot appeared headed for Viking heart-break city but drew iron and went into the air. However, the Rebels came up with the rebound and got another chance to tie on an 8-footer. As the buzzer sounded, the shot rolled off the side of the bucket and the Vikings had perhaps their biggest win of the season, 50-48 on the road, against a very good basketball team.
“Everyone had to do his job,” Howington told the team following the game. “It wasn’t just the last shot (a nifty out-of-bounds set that left Reed Gertiesen wide open under the basket). It was all the plays made before that and all the defense that was played up to that point. That was a very fine basketball team.”
Early in the season, the Vikings had their share of troubles. They had trouble shooting, they had trouble rebounding, and they had trouble particularly holding onto the ball. That might explain the 1-6 start.
But with the pair of wins this weekend, the Vikings found themselves in a spot that only they and their boldest fans would have deemed possible. They have fought their way back to the .500 mark.
“We were coming into this game without starter Cody Unhetheim,” Howington said after the game. “We knew we were only going to be seven deep so we tried to mix our defenses to conserve energy and to keep our guys on the floor and out of foul trouble. Our guys did a tremendous job of switching up defenses and keeping them off-balance. It was just a total team effort.”
The game could hardly have been any closer at any point throughout the night. Gertiesen, in his first career start, got the first two points of the night on free throws only to have the Rebels fight back to take a 9-4 lead before Michael Bender and again Gertiesen could connect to pull back to within 9-8. Then, when Wes Harness found Gertiesen free underneath the Vikings had fought back to take a 10-9 lead. They stretched the lead to 15-9 on five straight points by Alec Werry before the Rebels scored the quarter’s final five points to give the Vikes a 15-14 edge at the break.
Defense played the most critical role in the second period when the Vikings outscored the Rebels 9-7 with foul of the Viking points coming on free throws. Harness, Bender, and Werry scored in the quarter and Tyler Adkins came up with his second big block in two nights.
The Rebels appeared to grab the momentum in the second half as they scored the first seven points of the third period to hold a 28-24 lead before Howington had seen enough and called time out.
Werry got the Vikings on the board before the Rebels answered with one of several beautiful baskets off interior passing. But that’s when Kyle Whitmore broke loose and hit a three, forced a turnover, and hit another three to give the Vikings back the lead at 32-30. Werry’s steal and feed to Gertiesen lifted the Vikings to 34-30 before the Rebels outscored the Vikings 5-2 as the clock wound down. The Vikings held a narrow 36-35 lead on a James Marshall rebound bucket as the quarter ended.
“South Spencer is a very quick and athletic team, even moreso than it shows on film,” Howington said of the Rebels. “They move the ball incredibly well.”
The teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter with neither team holding more than a three point lead until Gertiesen’s basket off the set play and the subsequent turnover and the Viking defense.
The Viking wins are coming despite the lack of a dominant inside player but with fresh bodies in Gertiesen, Ungetheim, and Adkins each playing their roles, the team is finding a way to get it done.
“We challenge our big guys every day to play bigger than they are,” Howington said. “Tonight, all seven players stepped up to the challenge. We wrote up on the chalkboard at the end of the game, “inches.” That’s what this game comes down to.”
NORTH POSEY 50
SOUTH SPENCER 48
SOUTH SPENCER (9-5, 3-1 PAC): Dakota Risse 3 3-3 10, Woodburn 3 0-0 8, Nathan Kuester 5 0-0 10, Charleston Roberts 5 4-4 14, Duvall 2 0-0 4, Hebner 1 0-0 2.Totals 19 7-7 48.
NORTH POSEY (7-7, 4-1): Michael Bender 4 2-2 11, Kyle Whitmore 3 2-2 10, Harness 1 4-6 6, Alec Werry 5 2-3 13, Reed Gerteisen 4 2-2 10. Totals 17 12-15 50.
South Spencer 14-7-14-13—48
North Posey 15-9-12-14—50
3-Point Goals— S. Spencer-5 (Risse, Woodburn 2, Kuester 2); N. Posey-4 (Bender, Whitmore 2, Werry).
Friday night’s game paled in comparison to the excitement at South Spencer on Saturday night but the again, it took a team effort for the Vikings to overcome a pesky South Knox team 61-53.
South Knox was coming off a big win over rival Bloomfield and Howington said he knew the team would be pumped and primed to play at North Posey. He was correct.
Senior Wes Harness got the Vikings rolling in this contest as Whitmore’s 3-pointer missed the mark to open the game only to have Harness come up with the rebound. Then Werry’s 3-ball was awry only again to have Harness come up with the rebound and put it back for the basket plus one to give the Vikings an early 3-0 lead.
But the Spartans heated up from beyond the arc, settling to take the lower percentage but higher-counting shot attempts and when Harness picked up his second foul late in the first period, the Spartans took a 10-9 lead into the first-quarter huddle.
Neither team could find the range with much consistency in the second period until a 3-pointer by Werry gave the Vikes a little breathing room at 18-14. But the Spartans answered with a rare 4-point play as Andrew Scott was fouled on a 3-point counter and South Knox pulled even at 18.
The Vikings owned a narrow 24-23 lead at the half.
The third quarter was not a beautiful game if you like defense as the teams tallied 19 points apiece in the period.
But it would be Bender on the outside and Harness on the inside that would make life miserable for the Spartans down the stretch as Bender struck for three 3-point baskets in a two-minute period early in the fourth quarter. That opened up the inside for the remainder of the team as the Spartans were forced to come out and guard the 3-point line.
NORTH POSEY 61,
SOUTH KNOX 53
SOUTH KNOX: Houchin 1 0-2 2, Stafford 6 1-2 13, Sievers 0 0-0 0, Welton 2 0-0 5, Engstam 4 2-2 11, Schutz 1 0-0 2, Andrew Scott 6 2-3 18, Burke 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 5-9 53.
NORTH POSEY: Marshall 4 0-0 9, Michael Bender 3 2-2 11, Whitmore 0 0-0 0, Wes Harness 5 7-9 18, Alec Werry 4 5-5 15, Ungetheim 1 1-2 3, Gerteisen 1 3-7 5, Adkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 18-25-61.
3-Point Goals—South Knox 6 (Scott 4, Engstam, Welton), North Posey 7 (Bender 3, Werry 2, Harness, Marshall). Team Fouls—South Knox 16, North Posey 11. Fouled Out—Engstam. JV: North Posey 50-41.