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home : sports : local April 29, 2016

1/29/2013 10:44:00 AM
Vikings take down Ash Fork, lose to Northland Prep and Chino Valley
Lady Vikes break five-game losing skid, win two out of their next three games, defeat Ash Fork and Northland Prep, lose to Chino Valley
Sophomore guard Austin Kennelly hoists one of his two made three-pointers in the Vikings’ home win against the Ash Fork Spartans Jan. 22. Dave Yankus/WGCN
Sophomore guard Austin Kennelly hoists one of his two made three-pointers in the Vikings’ home win against the Ash Fork Spartans Jan. 22. Dave Yankus/WGCN
Junior guard Colton Grantham (No. 22) puts up a floater on the baseline against Ash Fork Jan. 22. Dave Yankus/WGCN
Junior guard Colton Grantham (No. 22) puts up a floater on the baseline against Ash Fork Jan. 22. Dave Yankus/WGCN

David Yankus

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams Vikings (7-9) easily handled the Ash Fork Spartans (2-20) at home on Jan. 22, winning 55-39 in a game that was never in doubt.

Unfortunately the Vikes followed that up with two straight road losses.

Williams lost 66-32 at the Northland Preparatory Academy Spartans (8-10) on Jan. 24 and the next night lost 54-48 at the Chino Valley Cougars (4-14) on Jan. 25.

Vikings head basketball coach Red McFerren said he knew his team had a tough stretch to finish the season, with four games against two tough opponents, but he was still hoping for a better outcome. After playing Northland Prep and Chino Valley back-to-back on the road, the Vikes now face those same teams back-to-back at home today and Thursday.

At least the Vikings close the season with two home games, where they have played competitively all year, most recently in their decisive victory against Ash Fork.

"We knew we had a good chance to win against Ash Fork so I started the younger guys and gave them significant playing time. They played very well," said McFerren. "We played the regular starters to start the second half, but they couldn't seem to get in the groove after sitting for so long. So I went back to the younger players and they closed it out for us."

Even without their regular starters playing the first half, the Vikings still built a commanding 29-12 lead after one quarter of play.

With the score 37-23 with less than 30 seconds left in the second quarter, an Ash Fork player came down and hit a big three to cut the lead to 11 points. Vikings sophomore guard Austin Kennelly answered right back with a three-pointer of his own before the buzzer sounded to put Williams back up by 14 points at halftime, 40-26.

"[Junior guard] Colton Grantham has really come along as a ball control guy, he really helped develop the offense tonight," McFerren said. "Austin Kennelly had a good JV game and he also had a good varsity game. He made three threes in the JV game, then took a while to make one in the varsity game, but he finally got there."

McFerren added that sophomore center Christian Plasencia and the other underclassmen also played well considering they were put into a situation where they had to perform right away. They started the game and received a significant amount of playing time, as opposed to being inserted in the game during the fourth quarter of a blowout one way or the other.

"Here, they had to go out and win it," McFerren said.

And that's exactly what the young Vikings did. They also evenly distributed the ball with multiple players showing up in the scorebook. Grantham scored nine points, junior forward Alexis Soto put in eight points, junior guard Julian Zamorano chipped in seven points, and both Kennelly and Plasencia contributed six points.

Against Northland Prep the Vikings could not hang with the larger school's basketball team and found themselves down and out early in the game.

Chino Valley doesn't have a great record, but they play some bigger schools and very tough competition on a regular basis. Williams kept it close the entire game only to see their chance at victory slip through their fingers as the Cougars pulled away in the fourth quarter.

"We just need to consistently go out and rebound, play defense, take good shots and run our offense," said McFerren.

Rematch week starts with the Vikings hosting Chino Valley tonight at 7 p.m. and closing the season at home Thursday against Northland Prep at 7 p.m. Thursday will also be senior night for Williams High School (WHS) senior basketball players. McFerren said he plans on starting all four seniors.

Williams is currently seventh in its section according to Arizona power points rankings. The top eight teams make the sectional tournament.

"As long as we make sectionals, we can go from there. It all comes down to one game at that point though," McFerren said. "I was so pleased after the Red Rock game, and it will be nice not to have River Valley and Grand Canyon back-to-back again. I hope students, fans and the community continue to come out and support us."

Lady Vikings

The Williams Lady Vikings (8-16) defeated the Ash Fork Lady Spartans (1-18) 35-18 on Jan. 22 at home.

The Lady Vikes went on the road Jan. 24 to Flagstaff to take on the Northland Prep Lady Spartans (0-12) and pull off the nail-biter 34-28.

The Lady Vikings followed their two straight victories with a tough road loss to the Chino Valley Lady Cougars (9-10) 40-28 on Jan. 25, unfortunately putting their slim postseason chances in jeopardy.

Against Ash Fork the Lady Vikings put together perhaps their best quarter of play so far this season. After a closely contested first half that saw Williams take a slim 14-12 lead at the break, the Lady Vikes outscored the Lady Spartans 19-0 in the third quarter. Williams was up 33-12 heading into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore guard Miranda Velazco drained three three-pointers and freshman Gabi Giunta nailed two threes of her own during the high scoring third period.

"The third quarter was probably our best quarter of the year," said Phillip Echeverria, Lady Vikings head basketball coach. "We had the shots in the first half, but they started falling in the third quarter. We haven't seen a man-to-man defense since Mingus Mountain Academy. We primarily play teams that play zone, and to be successful against zone we need to hit the outside shots and rebound well."

Fortunately for Williams, the first half wasn't indicative as to what was to come in the second half. The Lady Vikings missed many inside shots, put-backs and open jumpers in the first half against Ash Fork, which can quickly take a team out of a game.

Echeverria said the Lady Vikes work hard on defense, they play aggressive and do a decent job helping, but their Achilles heel is their inability to score consistently. This almost hurt them against Northland Prep, and did hurt them against Chino Valley.

"Scoring is just a nightmare for us," Echeverria said. "And we give up some easy baskets when we don't shoot well and don't rebound. Then they got a lot of fast break points against us. Chino Valley did that, and Ash Fork did that in the first half."

Echeverria said his team needs to work on concentrating when shooting, especially close to the basket. The players need to take their time, calm down and put up a quality shot attempt.

If the Lady Vikes can get over their nerves when shooting close to the basket, they could still make the sectional tournament. They'll most likely have to win their final two games of the season. Williams is currently ninth in their section in power points ranking. The top eight make the sectional tournament.

The Williams Lady Vikings play host to the Chino Valley Lady Cougars tonight at 5:30 p.m. The Lady Vikings' final game of the regular season is also senior night, a home game against the Northland Prep Lady Spartans tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

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