All Itasca needed to solve their early season conference woes was home, sweet home. A possibly disastrous two game skid to start the conference season could not be allowed to reach three if the Vikings have any hopes of contending for division title this year.
Thanks to some stellar defense and timely offense Itasca solved their scoring problems in time to dismantle Hibbing 86-60 Friday night and then edged a good Rainy River team 86-80 Saturday to even their conference mark at 2-2, 9-9 overall.
The Vikings go back on the road this week at Central Lakes on Wednesday (tonight) and Saturday at Vermilion as they try and solve their demons on the road.
The Vikings came out smoking on Friday night determined to take out their early season frustration on Hibbing and they did just that building an early lead and finishing the first half with a 16-2 run to put an end to any competitive question in the second half.
Hibbing tried everything to stem the tide early with timeouts, different lineup combinations and defensive tactics, but nothing worked.
Everyone was in on the scoring act as five Itascans were in double figures led by Tom McBride and Devon Knight with 16 apiece. Adding to the 26 point margin was Roman Brown with 15 points, Isaiah Farrar with 11 and Ryan Gibeau scoring 10.
A pressuring, ball hawking defense led to many baskets on turnovers for the Vikings.
Things were a bit stickier on Saturday afternoon as both teams needed most of their first half to warm up on this bitterly cold day.
When they did it made for a highly entertaining and competitive second half. The Vikings actually began to click on all cylinders late in the first half as they recovered from a six point deficit to tie at 29-29 and then closed out the first half on a 13-2 run and an 11 point advantage.
Strong defense helped Rainy River back into this contest, but the Vikings were equally as tough and maintained their slim margin until the final buzzer.
Leading the Viking hoopsters on offense was McBride with 19 points, Farrar with 17, Gibeau scoring 15, Brown adding 14 more and Nathan Schulstad coming off the bench to score 12 important points.
We played good defense both games and really worked well together. The guys were strong on the boards and grabbed many loose balls we created, commented a pleased head coach Bill Adamson. "I was hoping we would respond well as a team and we did.