News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

January 25, 2014

Shakamak holds off West Vigo boys for 32-29 win

WEST TERRE HAUTE — Visiting Shakamak has had trouble scoring all year. Host West Vigo was playing for the first time without its leading scorer and most aggressive offensive player.

So the Viking homecoming game Saturday night in the Jim Mann Green Dome didn’t figure to be an offensive explosion anyway, and the teams’ combined 9-for-27 free throw shooting made things worse.

The 32-29 victory still looked pretty good for the Lakers, however.

“It feels great,” senior reserve center Jeff Bessling said after the game that ended a five-game losing streak.

Bessling hit all three of his second-half free throw attempts Saturday, one of several keys for the visitors who dominated play — if not necessarily the scoreboard — in avenging a 22-point loss to the Vikings at the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic.

The Vikings had Braiden Cardinal then — the junior forward suffered a season-ending knee injury against Terre Haute North in West Vigo’s previous game — and his teammates occasionally still seemed to be looking for him Saturday.

“I thought it was going to be difficult for us to score,” coach Joe Boehler of the Vikings said after the game. “We’d been trying to find a third scorer [backing up Cardinal and Hayden Corenflos], and now without Braiden we’re trying to find a second scorer.

“Not to take anything away from them, because Shakamak played well, but I thought we continually shot ourselves in the foot.”

Twice in the first half West Vigo seemed to have found someone with scoring punch. Corenflos had three baskets as his team took a 7-1 lead, and Keagan McClain came off the bench for back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter for a 15-7 advantage. Each player scored just one more time the rest of the game, however.

“[Corenflos] got off to a great start, and that was something we were hoping for,” Boehler said later, “but then we kind of lost him for awhile.”

That 15-7 score proved to be West Vigo’s last highlight. The Lakers scored the last 10 points of the first half to take the lead — Jake Walters and reserve Braden Scott scoring five each — and the Vikings missed the front ends of two one-and-one situations.

And with the lead, the visitors showed what kind of game the last two quarters would be. The Lakers ran nearly two minutes off the third-quarter clock before attempting a shot — Bessling scoring inside — and the Vikings were playing from behind the rest of the way.

“We were patient when we needed to be [including while playing against the two first-half deficits],” coach Steve Brett of the Lakers said afterward. “Our execution [just nine turnovers, one in the second and third quarters combined] was much, much better … and we only shot one [3-pointer] and we made it, and that was a called play.”

West Vigo matched baskets with the Lakers three times in the third quarter, but with a chance to tie the Vikings gave up a steal and layup to Mark West. Bessling was fouled at the third-quarter buzzer and buried both tries — the two teams were 3 for 16 combined at that point — to give the visitors a six-point lead.

“I’ve been having a little downfall with my free throws,” Bessling said later. “I tried to relax and keep to the same motion.”

West Vigo got a three-point play from Austin Sappingfield and a rebound basket from Alex West early in the final period that cut the lead to 28-26, but Bessling — taking up some slack for senior teammate Brandon Morin’s less productive night — went aggressively to the basket for a three-point play that restored a five-point margin.

“We all have got to step up,” Bessling said. “When somebody’s not doing good we just have to all work together and give it our all.”

McClain’s last 3-pointer cut the lead to 31-29 with just under three minutes to play, but even though the Lakers were 1 for 5 at the line down the stretch — “free throws are more mental than anything; that was the biggest negative we had,” Brett noted — the home team couldn’t score again. As the clock ticked down, every Viking seemed to be looking for the big assist.

Sappingfield had a game-high 10 points plus three blocked shots, and he and Alex West had nine rebounds each for the Vikings. McClain and Corenflos combined for the other 17 points. Dylan Collins had nine points and Bessling seven points and a team-high five rebounds for the Lakers.

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