By Dave Pearce
Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good and excitable or irritable mood and depression. The “mood swings” between mania and depression can be very quick.
First year North Posey head boys’ basketball coach Heath Howington can probably relate after the season he has had, especially this week.
Howington’s Vikings gave him reason to be depressed on a rare Thursday evening game against Evansville Memorial. The Vikings played perhaps their worst game of the year on their way to a 65-40 drubbing by Evansville Memorial.
But his team did not leave him hanging. The Vikings responded quickly on Saturday by beating Class 2A’s fifth-ranked Perry Central Commodores 55-45 on senior day at North Posey.
When asked about Thursday’s debacle against Memorial, Howington said it was just about the worst feeling of helplessness he had ever experienced. The team talked briefly in the lock room following the game and on Friday at practice, Howington handled the adversity like someone with much more experience.
“We came into practice on Friday and I told them ‘Last night’s game was last night’s game and that’s all I am going to say about that.’” And it was.
“Adversity builds character and there was a whole lot of character in that locker room after both of those games,” Howington said on Sunday. “It was a totally different team that showed up on Saturday. Our guys really responded after Thursday night’s game. We focused on our next opponent and the guys did a good job executing our game plan.”
But when the Vikings opened Saturday’s game on the short end of an 8-2 run, Howington had seen just about enough character-building.
“When we got down 8-2 I called a time out and got into them pretty good and challenged them,” the even-tempered Howington said. “They responded and you see the results.”
The Vikings outscored the Commodores 8-3 through the remainder of the quarter and led by five at halftime.
They steadily built a lead behind the aggressive offensive play of senior guard Wes Harness and outscored Perry Central by two in the third quarter and by three in the fourth.
“There in the second half, they cut it to two points there,” Howington said. “But that was as close as they ever got.”
The Commodores had won 11 games in a row coming into Saturday’s contest.
“They have scored a lot off their pressure defense. We told our guys coming into the game that offensively, we were going to have to be able to handle pressure and make good decision,” Howington said. “We wanted our guys to attack and shoot lay-ups at our end and stay away from those ‘inbetween’ possessions. For the most part, we made good decisions on that.”
Harness finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists. Alec Werry had 11, James Marshall had seven, Kyle Whitmore had five, Reed Gertiesen and Tyler Atkins had four apiece, while Michael Bender and Damon Cardin each had two.
“We wanted our offense to go through Wes,” Howington said of the explosive senior. “Our guys were aware of that. We tried to isolate him on the blocks because he had a smaller guy on him. We thought we could go through Wes on the inside and that would open up our outside game. That freed up Werry, Whitmore, and Marshall. Werry had two 3-pointers while Whitmore and Marshall each had one.”
But one could not blame Howington if he questioned himself after Thursday’s game. After all, this is the same team that started the season 1-6 but has gone 7-3 since that time to pull almost even at 8-9.
But the win over the now 14-2 Commodores has to rank as one of the biggest wins of the season. But there is a lot of basketball left to be played for the Vikings. The last four games are going to determine many things about this year’s team, Howington’s first.
In the game against Memorial, Gertiesen and Adkins both got the starting nods, to try and counter some of Memorial’s size and perhaps come up with a few more rebounds. Also, Whitmore has been nursing a sore back and it may have given him an opportunity to rest it a bit.
It worked early but the Tigers caught on and the Vikings’ only lead came when Bender hit a three to open the game. The Tigers went on to build a 19-12 lead at the first quarter stop and expanded it to 31-14 at the half as the Vikings managed only one field goal in the second period.
By the end of the third period, Memorial had ballooned to a 52-25 lead and coasted to the victory. The Vikings won the reserve contest 32-27. The Perry Central reserves edged the Vikings 59-57.
Against Memorial, Harness had two field goals and hit all eight of his free throws to lead the team with 14 points. Werry finished with eight while Bender had five. Cardin and Adkins had four apiece while Whitmore and Gertiesen had two apiece and Bryce Martin hit a free throw.
The Vikings’ final four games are on the road and there’s still a whole lot on the line. The Vikes still have only one loss in the conference but after Boonville on Friday night, they will play at Tell City on Saturday and then face Southridge in a make-up game the following Friday and Gibson Southern on Saturday.
“If nothing else, we should be road battle tested,” Howington said with a smile. “But at the beginning of the year, we told the guys our main goal is to win the sectional and we want to keep our eye on the prize. It could work out that we could be playing for two championships in one week. Not many teams get that opportunity.”
By Dave Pearce
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