The mark of a good team is the ability to overcome adversity. Whether it is the injury to a key player, or having an overall bad game, championship teams figure out a way to get past all that and rise to the occasion when the time comes.
For the Wrightstown Tigers of head coach Cory Haese, they had to overcome both on Friday night. With their big man Nathan Beining on the bench with an ankle injury sustained in practice, the Tigers struggled early but overcame that and earned a hard fought 60-40 victory over North Eastern Conference foe Denmark Vikings.
“It is definitely a maturation process,” Haese said. “In the first half, we thought offensively that we didn’t screen very well, and our pace wasn’t very good. We didn’t push the ball up the court, we didn’t cut hard, but we missed some shots too.”
The Tigers (5-0 overall, 4-0 North Eastern Conference) started out slowly against the Vikings, unable to drain the three point shots that they are known for. They also missed shots that they normally hit, as in easy layups and wide open shots. With those struggles, the Vikings were able to keep the game close, and the Tigers held a slim one point lead at halftime, 22-21.
“There were three or four wide open layups that normally we finish, and a few open looks that we missed,” Haese said. “You still have to be mature and do it on the defensive end. Some shots didn’t fall, and that happens sometime.”
Wrightstown wasn’t the only team struggling from the three point line. The Vikings (1-5 overall, 1-3 conference) were 0-9 from beyond the arc for the game, and scored a number of points in the first half from the free throw line. The Tigers had just two free throw attempts in the first half, while Denmark hit nine from the charity stripe.
“They are probably the most physical teams in the conference and we had to match that,” said senior Zac Haese.
In the second half, the Vikings came out with a 5-0 run to begin that stanza, but then inexplicably called a time-out to kill the momentum they were gaining. Coming out of the time out, where Denmark held a 25-22 lead, the Tigers started to drive the lane and get to the basket with relative ease. The Tigers shot 59% from the field for the game, benefiting from the many layups they were able to finish in the second half.
“We didn’t have the best spacing in the first half and we couldn’t get to the hoop as easily as we wanted to,” Zac Haese said. “In the second half, once we got our spacing figured out, we got some easy layups.”
The senior guard had only four points in the first half, but he finished with 21. Derek Swick chipped in nine. For the Vikings, Blake Derricks had 15 points.
The Tigers have a non-conference tilt with Kewaunee on Saturday, December 19, and then are off until December 28th, when they travel to Green Bay to play in the Shawano Sun Drop Classic, where they will take on conference foe Freedom. Game time is 12:05pm on Monday, December 28th.