The boys of the Petersburg Vikings basketball program know the meaning of hard work, as the past week attests.
They just played five games in six days all against top teams in the region.
Their odyssey began with two fierce games at home against Sitka, which you read about in the last edition of the Pilot.
The next day the Vikings boarded their blue longboat for a trip to Juneau and Sitka.
They arrived in Juneau on Monday and charged out to meet the 4A powerhouse Falcons of Thunder Mountain High School.
Unfortunately the fatigue of the ferry ride immediately on the heels of a tough weekend of games showed right away.
“We just weren’t up to speed. They jumped on us right away and took a first quarter lead of 17-7,” said Vikings head coach Rick Brock.
There was more of the same in the second quarter as the Falcons led going into halftime, 29-15.
“Playing against a 4A school, it wasn’t good for us to show up without our A game,” said Brock. “We never really got into a rhythm, on the offensive end especially.”
Thunder Mountain won the game 55-33.
Taylor Pullar scored 12 points, Tristan Welton had 8, Hugh Fleming scored 4, and Connor Yeager added 5.
Later that night, at 2:30 a.m., the Vikings boarded the ferry toward Sitka and arrived Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday evening they matched up against the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves.
The first half of the game looked a lot like the Thunder Mountain game.
“We weren’t together at all on the offensive end. We had our worst quarter of the year on the offensive end,” said Brock.
The Braves came out with a heavy full court press and the Vikings didn’t respond well.
Edgecumbe had a 30-11 lead at halftime.
The Vikings regrouped at halftime, came back and outscored the Braves 17 to 8 in the third quarter.
“We had a very good defensive quarter, held them. We were right back in the ball game,” said Brock.
In the final quarter things took an unfortunate, familiar turn.
If the Vikings come out slow and fall behind in the beginning of the game, they often do a spectacular job of clawing their way back, often dominating bigger, older more experienced teams, but that huge push can sap the teams energy reserves.
The Vikings lost their momentum, and the Braves pulled away in the fourth for a 56-37 win.
After a good night’s rest, the Vikings faced the Braves again for their final game of the long week, and they came out swinging.
While the day before was one of the season’s worst opening first quarters, this game started with one of the strongest quarters of the year.
“We were in sync in our half court offense,” said Brock.
The Vikings knocked down 4 for 5 three-pointers, and every one was a good, clean look at the basket, according to the coach.
The Vikings were up by 4 at the end of the first quarter, then had a one point lead at halftime. It was tied at the end of the third quarter as both teams settled in to battle for every possession.
“We got the ball and were down by 3 with under 30 seconds to go. We ran the clock down a little, called a timeout, and set up a play to get a quick three. The play broke down but we still moved the ball well,” Brock described.
Taylor Pullar launched a three from the corner that hit the rim and bounced up, rolled around the rim and went in.
The score was tied with 6 seconds to go.
The Braves inbounded, got to half court, then called timeout.
With three seconds left in the game they ran a quick play to the basket and drew a foul at the buzzer.
Their shooter shot the first free throw and missed with no time on the clock.
He made the second free throw, winning the game 47-46.
“It was a heart breaker for us at the end, especially because the only place we really got hurt was on the offensive boards. They outrebounded us which really made a difference in the ball game,” said Brock. “It was hard to end that way, but it was still a positive way for us to end a stretch of games against three quality teams. I was pleased with the effort of the team and how hard they competed every possession.”
Pullar had 19 points, Welton had 11, Hugh Fleming and Colby Bell each had 6.
To recap the JV numbers: In the first game against the Edgecumbe JV the Vikings lost 52-66.
Colby Bell led Vikings scorers with 23 points, Anthony Curtiss had 10, and Jared Volk made 9.
In the second game, like the varsity, the JV played better.
They were down by one at halftime, then Edgecumbe pulled away in the third.
The Vikings got back to within three points in the fourth quarter, but got into foul trouble and the Braves made their free throws. Final score: Braves win, 56-46.
“We’ve had a touch stretch of games against very good opponents, but we’re battle tested and we hope to continue to get better and prepare ourselves for tournament.”
This weekend is homecoming in Wrangell.
When these teams last matched up at the homecoming games in Petersburg, before Christmas, the Vikings came out on top, but both teams have improved significantly and it should make for a great weekend of basketball.
“We hope to bring a lot of fans over there,” said Brock.