By Dave Pearce
Both the North Posey Vikings and the Princeton Tigers exposed weaknesses in each others’ games in a 59-56 barn-burner on homecoming night Saturday evening at North Posey High School.
The Princeton Tigers gave the Vikings a lesson on how to rebound while the Vikings exposed the Tigers’ weakness at the free throw line down the stretch.
The Vikings had a shot at tying the game after trailing by 10 points with just under two minutes to go.
Staring at a 52-42 deficit at the two-minute mark, We Harness hit a free throw and the Vikings came up with a steal and Kyle Whitmore nailed a 3-pointer at the 1:22 mark.
The Tigers took a time out because it appeared that the Viking defense was finally starting to force some turnovers.
Coming out of the time out, the Vikings forced yet another turnover and Whitmore came up with a steal and shuffled the ball to Harness and suddenly, the Vikings had a chance, down by just four with just over a minute remaining.
The Vikings had no choice but to foul. Despite being in the double bonus, the foul plan worked almost to perfection.
The Tigers missed a pair of free throws with 1:03 remaining and (homecoming king) Alec Werry buried a 3-pointer to pull the Vikings to within one with 59 second remaining.
The Tigers went back to the line and hit the second of two free throws.
The Vikies had a 3-point shot attempt to tie the game but it went awry and the Vikings again put the Tigers on the line.
This time, they missed both ends of the double bonus but the Vikings lost control of the ensuing rebound and again it was Princeton’s ball.
The Tigers called another time out and the Vikings fouled again with 31.7 seconds showing. Again, the Tigers missed both ends of the double bonus but again, the Tigers were3 able to come up with the rebound on a tip-out.
Finally, with 29 seconds remaining, the Tigers went back to the line where they hit both free throws to take a 55-51 lead.
But the Tigers put Werry on the line with 15 seconds remaining and he made both free throws and the Vikes trailed by two with 15 seconds remaining.
Following a Princeton time out, the Vikings but the Tigers back at the line where Kenzer Havill, who finished with 28 points, finally missed one of two free throws but again, it would be the Tigers coming up with the loose ball off the rebound.
Finally, with 11 seconds remaining, the Tigers went to the line and hit two free throws and it appeared the game was over.
But Werry stepped up and hit a big 3-point basket at 5.6 seconds and the Vikings were within two.
They were forced to foul and again it would be Havill going to the line where he hit the second of two tries.
Trailing by three, the Vikings got a good look at the basket but Michael Bender’s long 3-point attempt bounded away at the buzzer sounded and the Tigers had escaped with a 59-56 win.
Havill finished with 28 of the Tigers’ 29 points as he, at 6-foot-6, had his way inside.
For the Vikings, Werry finished with 19 while Harness and Whitmore had 15 apiece. James Marshall finished with three while Bender and Tyler Adkins finished with two apiece.
“We’re an undersized team and we have to continue to work on rebounding,” North Posey Coach Heath Howington said after the game. “We let their pressure and aggressiveness dictate how we were going to play.”
The three officials, all from the Terre Haute area, let the teams play and called very few “touch” fouls and it appeared the Vikings had trouble adjusting to the way the game was being officiated.
“They beat us in 50-50 balls and we work hard on that,” Howington said of the game. “But we’re not so much concerned with the wins and losses right now as we are with the focus on the process.”
The Vikings will get a little taste of “the process” this coming weekend when they travel to Southridge to take on the Raiders with at least a share of the Pocket Athletic Championship on the line. The Raiders have lost only twice and Howington knows his team is going to have to be at their best if they want a chance to compete with the elite in the conference.
“We’re road-tested and battle-tested and hopefully, all these close games have prepared us for what we will be up against at Southridge,” Howington said. “We have to play the game the right way. Their coach and I are best of friends and we have shared a lot of things>
That sharing includes coaching as assistants together at Eastern Greene earlier in their careers.
By Dave Pearce
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