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Balanced offense sees Vikings fend off Cavs

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@h-ponline.com

Twenty-six days is what separated Huntington North from its home game on Thursday evening and its last contest on Bob Straight Court. In total, the Vikings spent three-and-a-half weeks away from home.

So, naturally, the Vikings looked much different than the team that last battled in front of its home faithful. And fortunately for head coach Heidi Lawson and her staff, it’s been plenty of positive changes during that stretch.

Using a 21-0 run that spanned the second and third quarter and a balanced offensive attack that saw eight players score, Huntington North captured its seventh win in its last nine games, downing Fort Wayne Canterbury 68-53.

In the last home contest for Huntington North against Leo in mid-December, four Vikings scored in a win. On Thursday, six different Vikings scored in the first half alone.

“Huge,” Lawson said on the importance of a balanced offense. “And that’s what I, in the beginning of the year, knew that we could do, but I think we had to get in a groove. I think they thought Maddy (Robrock) was hitting so much that the ball needed to go into Maddy all the time. They can hit (shots). In practice, they are hitting machines. It’s awesome to see. And that’s what we’ve been waiting for.”

Coincidentally, it was Maddy Robrock who got the Vikings started with a basket in the post. And while Rileigh Johnson and Holly Anderson chipped in buckets in the early stages, the Vikings trailed 12-9 following a basket from Jordan Elliott.

Robrock, though, would spark a 10-2 run for the hosts that helped them take a 19-16 lead into the break.

The margin stretched to 25-19 after Huntington North scored six of the first nine points of the second frame, forcing a Cavalier timeout. The visitors, despite entering the contest with a 4-10 record on the year, responded with seven-unanswered points, which featured an and-one from Meagan Thomas and was capped off with a basket from Alaina Rongos.

Undeterred, the Vikings put together their best run of the day. Again, Robrock would spark a run with a lay-up before consecutive three-pointers from Karmen Koch and Johnson, the latter of which forcing a Cavalier timeout with 2:07 left in the first half.

Reece Colclesser helped pile on with a corner three-pointer of her own, the only points scored the remaining two minutes, giving the hosts a 36-26 lead heading into the break.

Koch kicked off the second half with a basket, Larissa Johnson knocked down two free throws at the line, Robrock converted an and-one and Rileigh Johnson buried a corner three-pointer, all in the opening 2:15 of the half, to cap off a run of 21 unanswered points.

Rongos would stop the run with a driving lay-up, but Robrock, Anderson and Rileigh Johnson helped the Vikings to their biggest lead of the night at 52-29, making it a 27-3 run in total.

Canterbury offered a strong response, finishing the third period with the final 11 points to cut the lead down to 12 points. However, the lead never dipped lone than a dozen despite a feisty fourth quarter from the visitors.

Leading 59-47, Huntington North would put the game away with an 8-0 run that started with a lay-up from Larissa Johnson after a missed Koch free throw.

Anderson would convert a pair of free throws and Rileigh Johnson and Larissa Johnson each knocked down shots to restore the lead to 67-47 before Lawson would empty the bench for the final 80 seconds.

Rileigh Johnson led the Vikings with 16 points while Robrock and Koch finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Anderson chipped in seven, Larissa Johnson finished with eight points, six in the fourth quarter, Colclesser added three, Taylor Reust finished with two and Meg McDonald one.

The Vikings shot 23-for-48 from the field and 6-of-16 from beyond the arc in the win, helping them overcome 15 turnovers on the night.

The three-point shooting, which saw four different Vikings convert from deep, was another positive takeaway for Lawson.

“It’s huge. It’ll open up the middle for Maddy then and that’s what we kind of talked to the girls about,” she said. “If you started hitting shots outside, they’re going to start coming out on you and then we can get it into Maddy. But they did a great job of inside-outside and when we did that, we got some great shots.”

Rongos finished with 22 points for the Cavaliers while Grace Sullivan had 14. Canterbury shot 44.2 percent from the field, including 50 percent in the second half, but hit just 3-of-19 from three-point territory.

The win has helped the Vikings turn around their season after a slow season, moving to 10-7 overall with wins in seven of their last nine contests.

For Lawson, a sense of urgency with the season coming to a close has been the difference maker in her side.

“I think realizing that they don’t have much time on this floor and crunch time is coming up in the conference,” she said on what changed for her side during the streak. “I mean, we’re still in the running. That kind of motivates the girls also. They have a goal and they’re trying to stick to it.”

As of deadline on Saturday, the Vikings were scheduled to meet Columbia City on home. Results from the contest, however, were unavailable as of the Herald Press’ deadline.