By: Joe Blystone
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
SWANTON (December 8, 2023) – Wins in Kevin McQuade Gym at Swanton over the last four years for Evergreen have been hard to come by.
Even the 2020 season in which Evergreen went 25-1 before COVID stopped their season in the regional fInals, the Vikings only loss in that time was at Swanton 50-40.
The Vikings avenged that loss at home that year with a 20-point victory and Friday night, despite a number of missed layups and a pair of missed dunks, got some retribution on the road with a 46-36 triumph over the Bulldogs in Swanton to move their early season record to 2-1.
“It’s just a good win here,” Viking coach Jerry Keifer said after. “We haven’t won here in a bit and it’s nice to not walk across the floor with our head down afterward.”
The Vikes ran out to an early 11-2 lead as Eli Keifer found Drew Gillen twice underneath, then the senior guard canned a pull up jumper and a trifecta from the foul line after being hacked on a triple try.
The run was capped when Tyson Woodring muscled up a putback score with 3:27 left in the first.
And just that quick, the Vikings went as stale as week old bread, missing their next eight shots, two from the foul line and throwing the ball away two more times as they didn’t score for over seven minutes.
The Bulldogs battled back bit by bit as towering 6’10” Charlie Wood began a run of nine straight points over those seven minutes with a score off an inbounds play.
Evan Reinhard hit a jumper, then Wood finished the rally with a tough score inside to forge an 11-11 tie with 6:01 left in the half.
In need of a booster shot offensively, the VIkes Hunter Vaculik gave them a two plus. First Vaculik buried a long bomb from the left wing with 4:16 on the clock to regain the lead, then hit from the same place with 2:57 to go to make it 17-13.
Vaculik wasn’t done yet as he found Gillen for a baseline jumper before Keifer hit a triple from way above the arc and Troy Manz came off the bench for a steal and score that finished a 13-4 burst to give Evergreen a 24-15 lead.
“The two three’s Hunter Vaculik hit really gave us a boost and got us going again,” Keifer explained of the second quarter run which the Vikings took the lead for good.
“I think we got after it better defensively and didn’t allow Charlie to get the same good looks he was getting before.”
Wood scored highly contested hoops back-to-back to start the third to slice the Viking margin to five but Blade Walker was the straw that stirred up another rally with a steal and dish to Woodring for a score, then found Gillen alone for a layup to help get the Vikings up 30-19.
Keifer assisted the next three hoops to Riley Dunbar, Gillen and then a lob to the high flying Woodring for a 36-23 advantage.
Keifer’s back cut from Woodring and Dunbar’s emphatic slam off a steal gave the Vikings their biggest lead at 42-26 with over six minutes left in the game.
Wood, scoring over half the Bulldog points, had a game-high 19. Keifer led the Vikings with 14 and added five assists.
Gillen hit double figures with 10 along with seven rebounds. The Vikings shot just 19-42 from the floor but had a mere nine turnovers. Swanton was 16-35 and had 20 turnovers.