Joe Boehler wasn’t looking forward to his West Vigo High School basketball team’s trip to South Knox on Saturday, and the first few moments of the game didn’t help his apprehensions any.
“This is always such a tough game for us,” Boehler said, after the Vikings had overcome their slow start for a 52-38 win that was nowhere near as easy as the score made it look. “Northview [a night earlier every season] is always a battle and an emotional game, so to turn around [and play] Saturday is tough mentally and physically.”
Although the host Spartans came into Saturday’s game with an 0-3 record, a closer look revealed a young team with size needing only a boost of confidence — and for their homecoming game, the Spartans got some.
After an opening free throw by West Vigo, South Knox got the next eight points. They led 12-6 at the first stop, and had eight-point leads on three occasions in the second quarter. To make matters worse, Viking floor general Cade Lindsey was in foul trouble.
His substitute, Tyler Wilson, started the comeback with a 3-pointer, however, and Kyle Stewart followed with another. After a 3-pointer by the Spartans, Aaron Kirby got the next five points of the game to draw West Vigo into a 21-21 tie.
West Vigo got the ball back when Lindsey — inserted in an offense-defense substitution in the final seconds — got a steal and started a fast break. His charging foul — his third personal of the game — turned the ball back over, however, and South Knox scored in the final second of the half for an intermission lead.
The Viking defense had been strong all game, and it kept giving the visitors chances in the third quarter. Three times the Vikings tied the score, and several times both teams missed easy shots that could have broken some of those ties.
Enter Adrien Corenflos. On a night when a different Viking seemed to step up every quarter, the West Vigo center picked the third period for his explosion — the last eight points of the period for the visitors, putting West Vigo ahead with one 3-pointer and padding the margin with another. It was 33-29 with a quarter to go.
The fourth quarter was Stewart’s, with a little help from Lance Stonebarger. Stewart had three baskets — two of them drives through the South Knox defense — and a pair of steals early as West Vigo built a 42-33 lead. South Knox fought back within 44-38, and the Vikings helped them with a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers, but West Vigo got the last eight points in the final minute.
“It was important how we kept our composure,” Boehler said afterward. “This was a nice way to end the weekend.
“This is a tough environment to play in ... homecoming, a great crowd. I was very concerned coming down here. I knew we were going to have our hands full.”
Kirby, who kept the Vikings within range in the first half, led all scorers with 15 points. Stewart added 13, 10 in the fourth quarter, and Corenflos had 11, 10 of those in the third period. Corenflos also had a game-high nine rebounds as the smaller Vikings controlled the boards, particularly in the second half.
South Knox, which used just two senior players, was led in scoring by sophomore playmaker Colton Houchin and promising freshman Isiah Stafford with eight points each, but the Spartans shot just 24 percent in the second half.
“Our goal is to hold people in the low 50s,” Boehler said when his team’s defense was mentioned, “so a game in the 30s? I’ve got to be pretty pleased. I thought we did a nice job contesting their shots on the perimeter ... and everybody who came in the game really helped us.”
WEST VIGO (52) — Kirby 6-12 2-3 15, West 1-5 0-0 2, A.Corenflos 3-7 3-4 11, Lindsey 0-2 2-2 2, Stewart 4-7 4-4 13, Cardinal 0-1 0-0 0, Wilson 1-1 0-0 3, Stonebarger 2-4 2-2 6. Totals 17-39 FG, 13-15 FT, 52 TP.
SOUTH KNOX (38) — Engstrom 2-9 0-0 4, Stafford 3-10 2-2 8, Burke 3-7 0-2 6, Houchin 3-9 2-2 8, Johnson 2-4 1-2 5, Scott 0-3 0-0 0, Elkins 1-1 0-0 2, Sievers 1-1 0-0 3, Welton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-45 FG, 5-9 FT, 38 TP.
West Vigo 6 15 12 19 — 52
South Knox 12 11 6 9 — 38
3-point shooting — WV 5-15 (A.Corenflos 2-5, Wilson 1-1, Stewart 1-3, Kirby 1-5, Cardinal 0-1), SK 1-17 (Sievers 1-1, Engstrom 0-1, Burke 0-2, Scott 0-2, Johnson 0-2, Stafford 0-4, Houchin 0-5). Total fouls — WV 10, SK 11. Fouled out — none. Turnovers — WV 13, SK 9. Rebounds — WV 33 (A.Corenflos 9, West 5, Stewart 5, Stonebarger 4, Lindsey 3, Kirby 1, Cardinal 1, Wilson 1, team 4), SK 24 (Engstrom 6, Burke 5). Assists — WV 12 (Kirby 3, Lindsey 3, West 2, Stewart 2, A.Corenflos, Wilson), SK 7 (Houchin 3). Steals — WV 7 (A.Corenflos 2, Lindsey 2, Stewart 2, Stonebarger), SK 9 (Burke 4). Blocks — WV 1 (Stonebarger), SK 4 (Scott 2).
JV — South Knox 47 (Mason Gay 14, Nick Stafford 13), West Vigo 39 (Braiden Cardinal 13, Hayden Corenflos 10).
Next — West Vigo (3-1) hosts Terre Haute South on Friday. South Knox (0-4) hosts Loogootee on Tuesday.