The first eight minutes of the Class 3A Owen Valley Sectional championship game in girls high school basketball went about as expected Saturday night, and that was enough to spell doom for West Vigo's upset hopes against Brownstown Central.
It was the rest of the game, however, that left the Vikings spoiling for a rematch after suffering a 66-34 loss.
Brownstown, which joined the Vikings' sectional field for the first time this season, is the matchup from hell for a lot of teams but particularly for the Vikings — or at least for the old Vikings.
If the Braves were fish, they'd be piranha. They are physical and unapologetically relentless, with killer instinct to spare. "I can't believe they're not in the top 10," West Vigo coach Jon Kirchoff said.
Some recent Viking teams — as recent as the team that opened the 2019-2020 season losing badly to the Edgewood team that Brownstown Central blew away on Friday night — would have wilted, surrendered, backed off, gone into a shell.
West Vigo's Kylee Stepp remembered that season opener after Saturday's game.
"That first game [of the season] was us from two years ago," she said, "but we built off that. . . . next year we'll avenge this loss."
A big goal? No doubt. Bravado? Probably at least a little bit.
But what Stepp had been a part of moments earlier was this: A Viking team that didn't wilt, or surrender. It certainly didn't back off, and instead of going into a shell the Vikings were attacking until the final buzzer.
"I was proud of the effort," Kirchoff said.
All that praise didn't come because the Vikings were perfect on Saturday. A long way from it, in fact.
West Vigo turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter — although the piranha had something to do with that too — and 30 times for the game.
The score was tied 3-3 after a Stepp 3-pointer with 5:34 left in the first quarter, but the Braves scored the next 11 points and the Vikings got just three other shots off in the first eight minutes.
But, as as been mentioned, there was no wilting, no surrendering. Early in the second quarter the Vikings were back within 16-11 after a rebound basket by Maci Easton, a 3-pointer by Katelyn Fennell and a three-point play by Grace Likens.
The Braves buried the Vikings in transition the rest of the half, closing the second quarter on a 24-3 run, but the battle never stopped. A 7-0 Viking run — two baskets by Maci Easton and a 3-pointer by Adelynn Harris — cut the lead to 59-32 before the reserves from both teams finished the game.
Ashley Schroer led the winners with 26 points, while Katherine Benter scored 11 and Halle Hehman had 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Stepp led West Vigo with nine points. Fennell had six and a team-leading seven rebounds and Maci Easton had six plus four steals. Makayla Sweitzer, the only senior available for the Vikings on Saturday, scored four.
"It takes a special player to play basketball for four years," Kirchoff said after the game. "[Sweitzer] may not have played as much as she wanted, but she gave everything she had in practice and everything she had on game night."
Sweitzer said afterward that she's looking forward to what the Vikings might do next season.
"We grew a lot stronger as a team this year," she said. "I think [the 2020-2021 Vikings] are gonna be greater next year if they work hard and keep playing as a team."
"We came together and bonded a lot more this year," Stepp agreed. "Adelynn Harris had a lot to do with that, inviting us to her house all the time, and it got to where we were always hanging out together and getting shots up."
"We're gonna return all our starters," Kirchoff said. "We talked about this being a big stepping stone, and maybe we got [to the sectional championship game] a year early. But you can't simulate being in a sectional championship game, and you can't simulate being in a two-overtime game [like the Vikings won on Friday]."
WEST VIGO (34) — Stepp 3-10 0-0 9, Fennell 2-4 0-0 6, Likens 1-6 1-1 3, Harris 1-5 0-0 3, E.Easton 1-2 0-0 3, M.Easton 3-7 0-0 6, Sweitzer 1-1 2-2 4, Boatman 0-0 0-0 0, Vinardi 0-0 0-0 0, Lasecki 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-35 FG, 3-3 FT, 34 TP.
BROWNSTOWN CENTRAL (66) — Hehman 3-6 3-4 10, Schroer 10-16 5-5 26, Hackman 3-6 0-0 9, Benter 4-12 1-4 11, Klinge 0-2 2-2 2, Fountain 2-3 0-0 4, Koch 0-2 0-0 0, Borden 1-1 0-0 2, Wischmeier 0-1 0-0 0, Bair 1-2 0-2 2, Stahl 0-1 0-0 0, Stuckwisch 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 FG, 11-17 FT, 66 TP.
3-point shooting — WV 7-21 (Stepp 3-9, Fennell 2-3, E.Easton 1-2, Harris 1-5, M.Easton 0-2), BC 7-22 (Hackman 3-6, Benter 2-6, Hehman 1-3, Schroer 1-3, Wischmeier 0-1, Stahl 0-1, Klinge 0-2). Total fouls — WV 12, BC 7. Fouled out — none. Turnovers — WV 30, BC 8. Rebounds — WV 29 (Fennell 7, Likens 5, Stepp 4, M.Easton 3, Harris 2, E.Easton 2, Sweitzer, Boatman, Team 4), BC 28 (Hehman 9). Assists — WV 8 (Likens 3, Stepp 2, Fennell, Harris, M.Easton), BC 11 (Hehman 4, Klinge 4). Steals — WV 5 (M.Easton 4, Sweitzer), BC 25 (Hehman 4, Benter 4, Fountain 4). Blocks — WV 3 (Stepp, Likens, Sweitzer), BC 1 (Hehman).
Next — Brownstown Central (24-3) plays at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the Class 3A Greencastle Regional against Indianapolis Ritter or Indian Creek. West Vigo finished 10-14.