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Squires overwhelmed by size and skill of Vikings

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

HUNTINGTON — The Huntington North boys’ basketball team had put forth many a fine performance on the young 2017-18 season. Saturday night might have been it’s finest.

The Vikings held visiting Manchester to just 28.9 percent shooting from the field, committed just nine fouls on the night all while shooting 50 percent themselves to earn a 59-32 win.

“First of all, we have to give Huntington North a lot of credit,” Manchester head coach Mark Underwood said. “They have a very good team with talented basketball players and they are also extremely well-coached. The discipline they have, they play with class and you have to give them some credit.”

The Squires were suffocated all night defensively, hitting just 6-of-24 from the field in the first half and connecting on just 2-of-10 three-pointers.

“I still thought they got into the teeth of the defense too much,” Huntington North head coach Craig Teagle said. “We got split too many times. We have to do a much better job of protecting the paint. This group’s been doing a better job contesting shots than our first few groups did which is important.

“I still think, defensively, we can be so much better and that’s something we’re really going to keep focusing on because we’ve got two games on the road, two really good opponents next week and defense and free throws wins on the road. We’re going to have to take both of them with us.”

Manchester started off the game the hotter team with baskets from Mason and Weston Hamby leading them to a 6-3 lead.

It was all Huntington from then on, though.

The Vikings poured in the next 18 points of the game spanning into the second quarter as Zach Daugherty connected on three-straight three-pointers, two in the first period and one to open the second, to fuel the run and open up a 21-6 lead.

Hamby and Koehl Fluke would score five-straight for the visitors, but Huntington North responded with a 10-0 run, starting with a Joe Stoffel three-pointer and capped off with a Daugherty lay-up as the Vikings led 31-14 at the break.

The third quarter was much of the same as the Vikings scored the opening five points of the period on a three-point from Hank Pulver and a lay-up from Sawyer Stoltz.

Fluke would briefly stop the run with a pull-up jumper, but Huntington North again responded with a big run.

Daugherty started the stretch with a basket before back-to-back baskets from Pulver, the latter a three-pointer. Mitchell Geller converted a lay-up before a three-point from Mason Hamby.

The basket did little to slow down the Vikings, though, as Stoltz split a pair of free throws before an and-one fastbreak lay-up from Daugherty to give Huntington North it’s biggest lead of the night at 49-19, capping off a 13-3 run.

After taking a 53-24 advantage into the fourth quarter, the Viking offense stalled, managing just six points in the final period as the visitors outscored Huntington North by two points.

“I thought we had great ball movement,” Teagle said of the offense. “I thought we fumbled a couple passes inside that we need to do a better job with. The fourth quarter, if I’m correct, the first six possessions we had four turnovers. I thought it was kids trying to do too much. We took two or three threes when we had a lead when we should have been trying to pound the ball inside, kick it inside-out and reverse it.

“But, again, hopefully those are things we learn from. When you have a lead like that, you want to get the shot you want, not the shot they give you and I didn’t think we did that. I thought we let it get away from us a little bit, some of our discipline on offense. We’re getting better, I think. We’re starting to understand defensively and offensively what we’re trying to do. If we continue that, we’ll be a hard team to beat late in the season, hopefully.”

Pulver led the Vikings on the night with 18 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, three assists and two steals. Daugherty had 16 points, Stoltz nine and Geller six. The Vikings out-rebounded the Squires 33-21 on the night with Geller grabbing eight and Stoltz four.

Out of the paint, Huntington North finished 9-of-18 from beyond the arc with Stoltz hitting four of his seven attempts and Daugherty connecting on three of his five threes.

“Going back to saying they’re a very good basketball team, not only do they have that size inside…but they have the ability to knock down the three from the outside,” Underwood said. “When you have a team with four different guys hit threes and they’ve got three guys inside that are just really long and talented…they’re going to give people troubles.”

For Manchester, Fluke poured in 13 points while Mason Hamby added 12. Weston Hamby finished with four and Brayden Casper added three.

“We are never going to be satisfied with losing,” Underwood said. “It stinks right now to be 0-4 and we’re not happy about that and we’re going to continue to work hard and try to find a way to win basketball games.

“But at the same time, the number one priority has to be to try to keep getting better and I think, even though this time had 59 points on us, I think that perhaps we may be making strides in the right direction defensively.

“We’re not making excuses, but we’ve played some tough competition and that’s been great because it’s caused us to learn a lot about ourselves and a lot about our deficiencies and it gives us a lot of things in practice to come out and really, really focus on,” he added. “The season’s early. We’ve had some really good challenges and we’re continuing to learn about ourselves.”

Manchester falls to 0-4 with the loss and will be off until Friday when they travel to Southwood. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Huntington North moves to 5-0 with the win but will have a pair of big road games next weekend, starting with the conference-opener against Leo on Friday before a trip to Kokomo.

“We didn’t have a very good practice week,” Teagle said. “We weren’t very happy with how they practiced. They need to have a great practice week. Our concentration is just going to completely be on Leo Friday night. That’s a conference game. They’re playing really well. They’re well-coached. I’ve had several teams go up there…and we haven’t won at their place yet.

“It’s a huge game on the road. You want out the conference 1-0, obviously. You don’t want to be in the hole. Big, big game for us Friday night.”

Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.