Vincennes Lincoln went 15-8 last season with a 9-1 home record, with the only blemish a loss to an outstanding Terre Haute North team.
So coach Clint Weddle was facing difficult odds in his opening game as boys basketball coach at Northview High School.
The host Alices knocked down 7-of-11 from the field in the opening quarter to take a 16-6 lead that they never relinquished in Alice Arena. Lincoln shot 53 percent on its way to a 69-54 victory. The Alices were led by 19 points from senior Cole Claycomb.
The reigning Big Eight and Class 3A sectional champions found a recipe for success early against Northview with 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior Avery Mickens, who scored seven of his 16 points in the first quarter.
Northview struggled to 2-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, and Lincoln stayed hot in the second quarter to build a 25-6 lead with six minutes left before halftime. The Knights were solid at both ends from that point on, but Lincoln continued to hit shots to keep Northview's spurts at a minimum.
Northview pulled within 43-30 on a Devin Clark 3-pointer in the third quarter, but Vincennes ran off seven straight points. Christian Ellis, who hit two first-half 3-pointers, knocked down a 17-footer to keep the Knights' deficit at 16 points, but Claycomb hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it a 22-point lead for the Alices near the end of the third quarter.
Weddle saw plenty to build upon in his team's performance in a tough place to play, and the Knights will face another challenge next week against Terre Haute North.
"You can't ask for a better start. Come down here and then go home and play against North next week then jump right in to conference play. I'm excited for that, these guys have been excited for that. We want nothing less than to play the best people we can possibly play. That's going to make us better, it's gonna make us see what we need to work on," Weddle said.
Northview shot 21-of-56 from the field for 37.5 percent as Lincoln defended the paint with passion, and took advantage of the matchup problem that Mickens created for the Knights.
Mickens has guard quickness that allowed him to drive on Northview's bigger defenders. He scored his seventh points less than six minutes into the action to put the home team ahead 16-6.
"They got off to a tremendous start and that's on me. I've got to do a better job trying to help our guys control the start of the game. Kudos to them for coming out and knocking down some shots, putting us in a position of trying to climb the ladder the rest of the night," Weddle said.
As for Mickens' ability to create his shot at will, the Knights will make adjustments, Weddle said.
"I think we'll have answers. We keep talking about it being a marathon and not a sprint for what we're putting together. We'll get there, I have no doubt about it. These guys continued to battle the rest of the night," Weddle said. "I imagine everybody we're going to play is going to have guys pretty big that can put the ball on the floor and be mobile. I anticipate that being the case."
Northview showed it has some talent on the offensive end, with five different players knocking down 3-pointers. Junior Ethan Whitson, Jim Mace and Daniel Kimball, who led the Knights with 10 points, faced double teams down low throughout the night that made it difficult.
"I'm going to have to do a better job of putting these guys in a position to be successful; offensively, I didn't do a very good job of that tonight," Weddle said.