By: Joe Blystone
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
OREGON (December 1, 2023) – Facing adversity everyone does. How you handle adversity makes you a winner or loser.
Evergreen ran into Division I Oregon Clay, a team with three transfer starters in their season opener. The Vikings Riley Dunbar played just four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
Evergreen missed eight straight free throws in the third and watched the Eagles take a five-point lead early in the fourth.
Then looking the game in the balance, the Vikings came up with big play after big play that lead to a 14-0 run, 10 of those in the span of a minute to rebound for a 61-49 triumph.
“You know this was a real team win,” Viking coach Jerry Keifer said after the victory, his 411th at Evergreen. “Our second group gave us a lot of good minutes and hit a couple shots for us.”
“We played nine guys in the first half and they all made a positive difference for us in some way.”
The long-range shooting Eagles took a four point lead in the first thanks to four different starters hitting from outside.
However Drew Gillen got inside for three scores and Elil Keifer bagged a pair from outside the arc, the last just before the first quarter horn to give the Vikes a 16-14 lead.
Colton Robertson’s bomb from the corner just before the end of the half expanded the margin to 28-24 at the break, but the Eagles, thanks for the most part to Evergreen inept foul shooting and Emir Walker’s eight third quarter points, caught and passed the Vikings 42-39 heading into the fourth.
Walker’s floater on the first possession boosted the Clay lead to 44-39 and then, there was nothing for nearly seven minutes as the Vikings speed which wreaked havoc with the Eagles all night began to take a toll in a tornado like fashion.
Keifer and Tyson Woodring each pick-sixed scores to bring Evergreen within a point. Woodring, who had been totally silent for three quarter, had another steal that led to two free throws that gave the Vikings a lead with under four minutes left.
Dunbar, cleaning the glass seemingly every possession defensively, got a putback to extend the margin to three and after yet another Vikings steal, Blade Walker buried a corner triple for a 50-44 margin with 2:55 left.
One more Clay turnover 25 seconds later led to Walker’s high arcing laser from the right side that found nothing but the bottom of the well expanding the Vikings lead to 53-44.
From their Woodring went 3/4 from the stripe and Keifer added a runner through the lane, and Walker hit Woodring on a touchdown pass against the press for a score to put the game away.
“Defensively we really were good in the fourth,” Keifer said of the 22-7 final quarter margin. “And Blade knocking down back-to-back triples was huge. Everyone contributed in that burst we had, it went from one to a 10- or 11-point lead really quick.”
Keifer had a game high 20 for the Vikings along with six steals and four assists. Gillen added 12 points and nine rebounds. Walker scored 10 and had four assists.
The Vikings forced 26 Clay turnovers, getting 17 steals on the night.
On Saturday night, Evergreen fell at Cardinal Stritch 61-56 to go 1-1 on the opening weekend of the season.