RIPLEY – The Ripley Viking boys basketball team found itself in a bit of a quandary on Thursday night, hosting the high-powered South Charleston Black Eagles (8-5).
The Vikings’ success this season has been predicated on an up-tempo style that offsets some of their deficiencies in terms of athleticism and size.
The only problem with that, one that was exploited by the Black Eagles, is that it plays right into the hands of more athletic teams. Thursday night was a prime example of this game of chance, as South Charleston took advantage of the up-tempo pace en route to a 111-87 win over the Vikings (5-7).
“I take a lot of [the loss] on me,” said Viking head coach Kevin Harris, “Trying to run as much as we did with a team that athletic, I thought there were a lot of times when we needed to slow the ball down. That’s what I regret. There were times we needed to just slow down.”
From the opening tip, the Black Eagles were ready to run. They opened the game on a 6-0 run before the Vikings were able to even respond, with SC stretching the lead to 16-6 late in the first. Ripley was finally able to counter near the end of the first, working the ball inside to sophomore Corbin Campbell to establish a rhythm.
Campbell scored six points in the quarter as the Vikings closed the first on a 6-0 run to get back in the game. SC led 18-12 at the end of the first.
Early in the second quarter, the Vikings continued to pound away on the inside with Campbell and freshman Ty Johnson. They chipped away at the Black Eagle lead until tying the game at 23 at the five-minute mark of the second quarter. From that point on, it was all SC.
The Eagles immediately went on a 10-0 run to retake the lead, eventually stretching it to a 20-5 run to put some distance between themselves and the Vikings. The SC onslaught continued, led mostly by the play of sophomore guard Cam Allen. Allen scored 17 of his 29 points in the quarter, sending SC into the half up 46-36.
“Offensively, obviously we’re very good at that style of play, getting it up and down the court” Harris said, “But, with [SC’s] length and athleticism, it really hurt us matchup wise. We were having a lot of trouble, for some reason, matching up in our 2-3. I didn’t know they’d shoot the ball that well. When you let the ball get into the paint with our lack of size, a lot of bad things are going to happen.”
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the momentum that the Black Eagles built late in the first half carried over to the second. SC continued its onslaught in the third, racing out to a 10-2 run at the beginning and eventually outscoring the Vikings 39-18 in the quarter to take a commanding 85-54 lead into the fourth.
Despite the deficit, the Vikings did their best to weather the storm. A majority of the Ripley offense came from senior guard Jamison Hunt, who scored 30 of his 35 points in the second half. Ripley outscored the Eagles 33-28 in the fourth quarter, but fell 111-87.
“There were some positives, as bas as the final score looks,” Harris said, “The amount of points we scored; we just didn’t defend worth a hoot. Offensively, our boys don’t get flat and play so much better at that high-tempo pace. At the same time, we’ve got to try to create turnovers. You feel like it is Russian roulette, basically, when you’re playing a team like the Black Eagles where you’re obviously not as athletic. It’s a hard decision to make.”
Hunt led the Vikings with a double-double, dishing out 10 assists to go with his 35 points. This included going 8-of-11 on two point shots, as well as 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
Ripley had three others in double figures, with Eli Casto and Nathan Hall scoring 14 points apiece and Corbin Campbell chipping in 11.
Johnson added eight, Elijah Riffe scored three and Griffin Durst rounded out the scoring with two.
As a team, the Vikings went 32-of-61 (52.5%) from the floor. This included going 24-of-38 (63.2%) from two, but just 8-of-23 (34.8%) from three-point range. They also shot 15-of-18 (83.3%) from the free throw line.
For the Eagles, Allen led the way with 29 points, followed by E.J. Phillips’ 17 points, Tamon Scruggs’ 15 points and Larry Bryson with 12 points. SC shot 47-of-91 (52.1%) from the floor and outrebounded the Vikings 44 to 32. They also forced 15 Ripley turnovers in the win.
The Vikings return to action tonight on the road at Parkersburg at 7:30 p.m.