HOWARD — The Northridge Vikings fought off the host East Knox Bulldogs repeatedly to hang on to a 53-48 victory in Mid-Buckeye Conference boys basketball action on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs led by as many as six in the first half, despite going 1-of-12 at the free-throw line. The gap closed quickly when Vikings forward E.J. Snyder (seven points, 13 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer and he was followed by teammate Connor Burke (11 points), who nailed a 3 at the buzzer to end the first half. The Bulldogs still led 23-22.
That slim lead would quickly vanish.
The Vikings (2-2, 1-1 MBC) came out shooting right after halftime, When Aaron Estep converted a steal with a layup. Northridge’s Cody King (12 points) followed with a 3 to give the Vikings a 27-23 lead.
The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 MBC) had lots of trouble from the free throw line, hitting only three in the first three quarters. The Bulldogs were one of eight in the first half from the stripe, but did better down the stretch hitting four in a row and finishing 10-of-20.
“We did not do very well hitting our foul shots tonight — that was very obvious,” said East Knox coach Don McDaniel.
The Bulldogs kept fighting to get the lead back as forward Khai Haralson brought them to within two at 39-37 by hitting a pair of free throws early in the fourth quarter.
King came right back with a bucket for the Vikings and his teammate Justin Howard (12 points) followed with a 3-pointer. That gave the Vikings a 44-37 lead with 5:30 to go.
Luke Branstool (17 points, nine rebounds) grabbed an offensive rebound off a Devin Faucett (five points, four steals) shot attempt midway through the last quarter and was fouled by Northridge’s Snyder. Branstool hit the front half of the pair and missed the second attempt, which eventually went out of bounds. Haralson inbounded the ball right back to Branstool underneath. He hit the bucket and was followed by teammate Drew Faucett (four points, four assists) who also hit a bucket. Haralson added to the Bulldog outburst, hitting a jumper with 3:50 to go and tying it up at 44.
“At that point, I thought that we were back to our normal self,” said McDaniel. “We did not play, like we had been playing (this season), all night. We turned the ball over uncharacteristically. Once we tied it up, I thought that was the energy that we needed.”
Later with 31 seconds to go, it was Haralson again, hitting another pair of free throws to tie it up again at 48.
The Vikings caught a break on their next trip down the floor as Estep (nine points, five steals) hit a bucket and drew a foul. The ensuing foul shot gave them a 51-48 lead.
The Bulldogs got another try as Devin Faucett missed a 3-point attempt and the Vikings got it back to hold the lead.
“The biggest key tonight was for us to play disciplined basketball for four quarters,” said Northridge coach John Wheeler. “That’s what we try to tell our guys. We didn’t play disciplined basketball against Fredericktown. That was our big focus in practice on Saturday and yesterday. We are the youngest team in our conference. We have to play disciplined basketball in order to compete with the other teams in our conference.”
“We talked about it before the game.” said McDaniel. “We needed to control the tempo of the game, and I think we let (Northridge) do that. Take nothing away from Northridge. They did a nice job. I felt going in that we were a little more disciplined team and it turned out not to be. (Northridge) turned the ball over to us time and time again (23 times) and we just couldn’t wait to give it back to them.”
East Knox won the junior varsity game, 53-45. Brandon Berger had 17 points for the Bulldogs and Caleb Higgins had 22 for Northridge. Northridge won the freshman game, 38-30.