WEST TERRE HAUTE —
A season-opening high school boys basketball game at West Vigo on Wednesday night was as much about when the players did things as it was what they did.
Visiting North Vermillion seemed to have a close game under control the entire way because every time the host team made a run, Falcon star Brayden Woodard was there to answer.
Although West Vigo was never ahead in the last 28 minutes of regulation time, the Vikings got a game-tying 3-pointer from Alec Blair with 6.3 seconds left and pulled out a 47-46 victory on Braiden Cardinal’s driving layup with 10 seconds left in overtime.
Woodard had a game-high 24 points for North Vermillion, seemingly all of them at critical junctures. But even he couldn’t escape the foul-shooting bugaboo that plagued both teams at various times, and two missed free throws by the Falcons in the last 80 seconds of regulation time plus two more misses in overtime left the door open just wide enough for the Vikings.
“These are the games I won’t miss [when I quit coaching],” Sam Karr of the Falcons quipped afterward. “I loved everything we did to put ourselves in a spot to win.”
“I’m just real proud of how the kids battled,” said coach Joe Boehler of the Vikings. “It was good for our young team to play a veteran team like North Vermillion and come out with a win. Hopefully it will be a little bit of a confidence-booster for the guys.”
West Vigo had an early 7-2 lead in a game played deliberately by both teams, but then North Vermillion scored seven in a row, taking the lead on Woodard’s first basket after a three-point play by Lucas Clark had tied the score with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
North Vermillion had its lead up to 14-8 early in the second quarter. West Vigo was back within 15-14 on a 3-pointer by Hayden Corenflos, but Woodard stopped the rally temporarily by hitting a free throw. The Vikings worked their way into a tie at 18-18 when Grant Daley made a nifty drive-and-dish to Corenflos for a layup, but Woodard hit a pair of 3-pointers to close out the half, the second of them at the buzzer.
The visitors were up 28-20 near the midpoint of the third quarter, but Tyler Hayes had one bucket and Corenflos the next two as West Vigo got within 30-26. Free throws by Cody Wright had the Falcons ahead by six going into the fourth period.
Then Boehler made a defensive switch, and Karr learned his team still had some youth problems of its own.
A half-court trap by the Vikings quickly resulted in a steal by Corenflos, who scored shortly at the other end to make it 32-28.
Woodard — who else? — hit a 3-pointer to restore a seven-point Falcon lead, but the Vikings kept chipping away and North Vermillion became tentative. “You’ve got to make plays. Our youth showed there,” Karr said later.
Consecutive baskets by freshman Austin Sappingfield had West Vigo within 35-34 midway through the period, then Woodard exploded to the basket, tipping in his own miss, and Jacob Earl added a steal and layup to get North Vermillion five points ahead again.
The West Vigo trap may have had another effect, however. Its point man, Cardinal, hadn’t scored in the first three quarters, but he hit a free throw after an offensive rebound, then drove for a three-point play on a fast break moments later to cut the lead to 40-38 with 46.6 seconds to go.
“Our intensity just picked up, what we needed the whole game,” Cardinal said afterward in describing the game’s last quarter and overtime. “Our defense picked up, we started getting stops and we ran the floor better.”
“We were in a little foul trouble, so we shied away from [the trap],” Boehler added, “but in the fourth quarter we needed something to try and force some turnovers.”
The Falcons hit one of two free throws with 23.9 seconds left, but the Vikings got the rebound, called a timeout and set up the play for Blair. “He hit a huge shot,” Boehler noted.
West Vigo controlled the overtime tip and missed a shot, but Sappingfield got a steal at the other end and Hayes got a basket on Cardinal’s assist to give West Vigo the lead. Woodard was at the foul line seven seconds later after driving hard to the other end, but he hit just one of two and Cardinal scored to put West Vigo up by three.
Despite heavy defensive pressure, Woodard buried a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game with 1:13 to go, then stole the ball. But again the Falcons had a 1-of-2 trip to the line with 30.7 seconds left, and Hayes and Cardinal — making a number of two-man plays down the stretch — got together again, Cardinal scoring the game-winner.
“We both can take it off the dribble,” Cardinal said of he and Hayes. “The chemistry on this team is just great, and that correlates on the court.”
“We’ve got a long way to go offensively,” Karr said. “We’re still young [four of the eight players the Falcons used, including three starters, are sophomores] but we have enough senior leadership that we should win games like this. … And we didn’t shoot free throws well.”
Corenflos led the Vikings with 13 points, while Hayes and Blair had nine each, Cardinal eight in the last 12 minutes and Sappingfield seven.
“We learned a lot from our [preseason] scrimmage [against Cloverdale] on Saturday,” Boehler said, “and we made a couple of adjustments to how we were playing. Nobody quit and we just kept battling.”
NORTH VERMILLION (46) — Earl 2-4 3-4 7, Clark 1-3 1-1 3, Sams 3-6 3-4 9, Woodard 8-14 4-10 24, Wright 0-4 2-2 2, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Watson 0-2 0-0 0, Martin 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 14-36 FG, 14-23 FT, 46 TP.
WEST VIGO (47) — Cardinal 3-9 2-4 8, Sappingfield 3-7 0-0 7, Corenflos 5-10 2-4 13, Hayes 3-6 3-4 9, Blair 2-5 3-4 9, Voils 0-1 0-0 0, Daley 0-0 0-2 0, West 0-0 1-2 1, McClain 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-38 FG, 11-20 FT, 47 TP.
North Vermillion 9 15 8 9 5 — 46
West Vigo 8 10 8 15 6 — 47
3-point shooting — NV 4-11 (Woodard 4-7, Davis 0-1, Martin 0-1, Wright 0-2), WV 4-16 (Blair 2-5, Corenflos 1-3, Sappingfield 1-5, Cardinal 0-3). Total fouls — NV 15, WV 18. Fouled out — Sappingfield. Turnovers — NV 17, WV 14. Rebounds — NV 36 (Earl 6, Clark 5, Woodard 5, Sams 4, Wright 4, Watson 3, Davis, Martin, Team 7), WV 26 (Corenflos 5, Blair 5, Hayes 4, Cardinal 3, Voils 2, Sappingfield, Daley, Team 5). Assists — NV 8 (Earl 3, Wright 2, Sams, Woodard, Davis), WV 13 (Hayes 6, Cardinal 4, Corenflos 2, Daley). Steals — NV 7 (Woodard 3, Sams 2, Earl, Wright), WV 11 (Corenflos 4, Cardinal 3, Sappingfield 2, Hayes, West). Blocks — NV 3 (Clark, Sams, Woodard), WV 0.
JV — West Vigo 38 (David Fiddler 10), North Vermillion 28 (Zach Buchhaas 9).
Next — Both teams play Dec. 6, West Vigo (1-0) at home against South Vermillion and North Vermillion (0-1) against Rockville at the Banks of the Wabash tournament at Turkey Run.