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December 27, 2013

West Vigo shares ball, shares in victory over Shakamak

Vikings end game on 14-2 run; Cardinal leads team with 17 points

TERRE HAUTE — It happened just before the midpoint of the first quarter. Alex West, having a strong first quarter for West Vigo, grabbed an offensive rebound and muscled it home to give the Vikings a 6-5 lead over Shakamak.

It wasn’t the last of the four first-quarter lead changes in Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic high school basketball, but that basket was significant for another reason: it was the only one of West Vigo’s 23 that wasn’t set up by an assist as the Vikings shared the ball beautifully on their way to a 60-38 win.

“As a team, we’re just trying to get other people open and get them the ball,” explained Viking point guard Tyler Hayes, who dealt 15 of those 22 assists — not a school record, coach Joe Boehler guessed, but perhaps the best anyone has done in a Classic game (assists are not included in the official records).

“We did a nice job sharing the basketball and finding open guys,” Boehler agreed. “[Shakamak] used a box-and-one [defense] in the second half [against leading West Vigo scorer Braiden Cardinal] so we had to move the ball and find openings, and the kids did an excellent job responding.”

Both teams did an excellent job offensively early in a first quarter that was one of the Classic’s best so far. West had six points and five rebounds and Hayes six assists for West Vigo while Brandon Morin scored seven for the Lakers, but the Vikings used a 6-0 run — baskets by West, Tyler Kernstein and Cardinal, all assisted by their point guard — to take a 15-12 lead and remained up 17-13 at the stop.

The second quarter was just the opposite. In those eight minutes the teams combined to shoot 15 percent, with the Vikings scoring only twice — a 3-pointer by Cardinal and a three-point play by Hayden Corenflos. Shakamak at least got to the foul line and drew within 23-21 on a 3-pointer by Jake Walters, then tied the score on a driving layup by Dylan Collins to open the third quarter.

That proved to be the high point of the game for the Lakers, however. West Vigo got the next six points, had an eight-point lead at the third stop and opened the fourth quarter with a 9-3 run for a 46-32 advantage.

When the Vikings closed out the game with a 14-2 run — Shakamak shot 21 percent from the field in the last three quarters — the score was more one-sided than the game usually was, but that was no consolation to coach Steve Brett.

“I didn’t see much positive out there,” the veteran mentor said after the game. “Our offensive execution was — nothing. This was not a very good game for us.

“We didn’t get good shots, we took shots we couldn’t hit … you do that and the results will be like this.”

Cardinal stil led all scorers with 17 points, but the Vikings had offensive success in other areas too.

“He’s one of our best shooters so we try to get him the ball,” Hayes said, “but to take the pressure off him, we go to other people too.”

One of those other people was Kernstein, a freshman who was a surprise starter and had nine points.

“Now is as good a time as any [to experiment with the lineup],” Boehler said. “We needed to give a couple kids a look — I think [Kernstein] played maybe two minutes all year, but he’s practiced well — and he gave us a little bit of boost. It’s nice to have the young kids step up.”

Kernstein replaced another freshman, 6-foot-6 Austin Sappingfield, in the starting lineup, and Sappingfield demonstrated he’d like his job back too — 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Corenflos scored 11 for the Vikings, while Collins and Walters had 11 each — and Collins added seven rebounds and five steals — for Shakamak.

Although West Vigo has a tough test today against Linton, the Vikings come into the game with three straight strong performances — even though one of them was Thursday’s tough loss to Owen Valley — and perhaps some new depth.

“I feel like we’re doing a lot better as a team,” Hayes said.

“Every time we step out on the floor we hope to get a little better,” Boehler said, “and it does feel like [we are doing that right now]. I’m happy with where we are.”

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