by Marty Zier
The Lady Vikings easily beat the Concrete Lions, 53–26, on Jan. 15, and had one of their most exciting wins against Mt. Vernon Christian, 40-37, to the joy of a raucous Orcas crowd on Jan. 19.
Controlling the game from the tip-off against the Lions, Orcas nudged a 16–3 lead late in the second quarter and went into the half up 22-11. Never really challenged, the Vikings entered the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead looking solid and shaking off past late-game meltdowns.
Fourth quarter composure became pivotal for the Vikings in the most dramatic win of the season against the previously undefeated Hurricanes. The match-up had the ingredients for a tough battle from the start with both teams in a full-court press and clean, open shots difficult. With the Hurricanes up 7–6 after the first quarter, defenses tightened but the Vikings found a slight scoring edge, leading by as much as six points and edging the Hurricanes 21–19 at the half.
With neither team yielding, the Hurricanes took the lead going into the fourth quarter 32–29, but foul trouble had the Vikings at the free-throw line and key Hurricanes on the bench. Reminiscent of the Friday Harbor game, the Vikings were up with 5.5 seconds left in regulation but defensively shut down the Hurricanes for the win.
“This was a sweet victory for our team,” said Head Coach Gregg Sasan. “Our defense really stepped up. Our game plan was tight defense since they like to shoot and they shoot well. I told my team: if you leave them open they will hit their shots. If you contest their shots, different story. But our free-throw shooting was not good. We have to do a lot better job. The score should not have been that close. And we need to be more patient. We throw the ball away at times. We had 22 turnovers to their 17.”
Scoring against the Hurricanes was Katy Minnis 9, Journey Howden 9, Jessie Nichols 8, Birdie Greening 7, Olivia Brunner-Gaydos 4 and Maia Lewis-Shunk 3.
The Vikings near the end of the regular season tied with Friday Harbor at (4-3), both chasing Mt. Vernon Christian (7-1) and La Conner (5-1). Darrington is (1-6) and Concrete is (0-7). The Lady Vikings traveled to La Conner for a game on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and will play against Darrington away at 4:30 p.m. The next home game will be against Friday Harbor on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 5 p.m.
The Viking boys’ team had dominant victories last week with a 73-50 advantage over Concrete and 84-44 stomping of Mt. Vernon Christian.
The Jan. 16 match-up against the Concrete Lions brought back 6-foot 4-inch Yusuf Duni after an injury.
“We eased Yusuf back from his injury with controlled bursts of time, and his leg appears to be doing extremely well,” said Head Coach Corey Wiscomb.
But as much as height is an undeniable factor in rebounding, Wiscomb noted, “Kellen Maier, the shortest guy in our starting lineup, was our leading rebounder purely from his tenacious go-for-the-ball attitude. Maier played excellent defensively and offensively.”
Scoring against Concrete was Vanya Bullock 25, Hayden Simpson 23, Maier 11, Duni 7, Max Clark-Mattila 6 and Tomas Holmes 3.
Finishing the week, Orcas controlled the Mt. Vernon Christian Hurricane game from the first tick on the clock to the last.
“Max Clark-Mattila continues to shine on defense, and game by game I see him making more mature decisions on the floor. While we definitely have things to improve upon, we’ve arrived in a really good place, one where the whole coaching staff has been aiming us towards all season,” said Wiscomb. “Our senior trio of Bullock, Simpson and Duni has become a powerhouse in the league and our supporting cast have proven they can rise as well. That makes us a well-rounded team who, hopefully, is finding their best stride right as we move to the end of the season. We fully expect to be in the playoffs and district tournament, and we’re looking forward to a shot at making state. But for now we’re going to work on staying healthy and take it one game at a time.”
Scoring against the Hurricanes was Bullock 23, Simpson 21, Duni 16, Holmes 9, Clark-Mattila 8, Maier 4 and Garrett Ballanger 3.
With only three regular season games remaining, the (5-2) Vikings are one game behind Friday Harbor at (6-1) and three teams bunched up mid-pack: La Conner (3-3), Concrete (3-4) and Mt. Vernon Christian (3-5).
The Vikings traveled to La Conner on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and will play Darrington at Darrington at 5:30 p.m. The next home game will be against Friday Harbor on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m.