third quarter and then cruised to a 51-31 win at Holy Name. The victory
stretched the VA-SJ lead in the North Coast League to two games over
the Green Wave. Overal, VA-SJ finished the game on a 34-8 run.
The Vikings went on a 16-0 blitz during a three-minute stretch of the third quarter and then cruised to a 51-31 win at Holy Name. The victory stretched the VA-SJ lead in the North Coast League to two games over the Green Wave.
It appeared a tie for the top was likely when the Vikings fell behind 23-17 early in the second half. But guard Nate Barnes scored four baskets, including three 3-pointers, in less than five minutes, to kick-start his team. VA-SJ grabbed the momentum and ran away with it, finishing the game on a 34-8 run.
The Vikings (11-3, 8-0) played far more efficiently on offense in the second half, committing just one turnover in the third quarter after totaling 12 in the first two, but their smothering man-to-man defense over the final 16 minutes keyed the victory. Nothing came easy for Holy Name, which racked up 12 of its 20 turnovers in the second half and managed just four baskets after intermission.
“It was a tale of two halves,” VA-SJ coach Dave Wojciechowski said. “In the first half, it seemed we weren’t quite ready to play. We had a tough weekend and they’re a pretty good team and they do things defensively we’re not used to. But I got after them at halftime and we turned it around.
“It all started on the defensive end of the floor. Defense and rebounding has to be this team’s staple and we did a great job of those things in the second half. We have to defend and limit teams to one shot. Our defense allowed us to be more aggressive. We were able to attack a lot better in the second half. And our passes were a lot crisper.”
Many of those passes ended up in the hands of Barnes, who scored nine of his game-high 17 points in the third quarter. Teammates Brian Jenkins and Ashen Ward combined for 11 more in the fourth quarter as the Vikings continued to stretch their lead until the final buzzer.
“I was just looking to find an open spot anywhere on the floor,” Barnes explained. “They were designed plays. I figured if I scored some baskets it would give the team some confidence.”
Mission accomplished. And the Vikings needed some confidence after a sloppy first half in which they piled up nearly as many turnovers as shots from the field. Holy Name (11-3, 6-2) held them without a basket during the last six minutes of the first quarter to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 12-6 lead. The Green Wave also worked their way into the bonus in the first half, during which they shot 17 free throws to just two for VA-SJ.
The Vikings felt fortunate to trail only 19-17 at halftime. That deficit certainly didn’t take long to erase. Holy Name coach Mark Krakowiak lamented his team’s lack of execution offensively in the second half. He had hoped the Green Wave would continue to play the deliberate, efficient style that proved successful in the first half, but turnovers prevented that from becoming reality.
“That’s our tempo,” Krakowiak said. “(Wojciechowski) knows they want to ratchet it up and we want to be deliberate. Even in the first half we went too fast, but our defense was so good.”
The Green Wave was hurt when talented center Danny Day picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter. That forced Krakowiak to take him out of the game, which opened up the lane for penetration. The attempt to prevent drives to the basket allowed Barnes to get open – and he took full advantage of it.
“Against VA-SJ, it’s pick your poison,” Krakowiak said. “You don’t want to get beat off penetration, so you stay between the ball and the basket. We lost Barnes a couple of times, but it wasn’t just him. They have a lot of weapons.”
The Vikings themselves are like one big weapon. And on Tuesday night, they were a time bomb that finally exploded.