Vikes survive furious Spartan rally to capture District crown
By Ken DeLaat
Photos by Catalpa Photography
The title game in Fremont between Sparta and Tri County turned out to be two separate contests.
The first was a Viking dominated performance that saw them build a 23 point lead just minutes before the end of the third quarter.
Then there was Part Deux. An absolutely unbelievable comeback by the Spartans who went on an amazing 22-0 run to close the gap to a single point with 2 minutes on the clock.
Emma Overbeek scored the first 6 points for the Vikes finding her way into the lane each time while answered by baskets from Maria Anderson and Elie Andersson. T.C.’s Alicia Bowen ripped a three and the Spartan catalyst Delany Armock sank a pair from the line as the team's tested each other. The Vikes got the ball in to Jessica Thompson who spun for a score and Julia Bice added off a stop to make it 13-8 TC. In the meantime everything Spartan sharpshooter Mia Vandenberg put up was bouncing off or spinning out of the rim.
Then Armock picked up her second foul and went to the bench.
TC responded with an Overbeek triple and a Taylor Reed tally after a steal. Jenna Hoover hit from distance to end the 9-0 Viking run but two straight baskets off the hands of Tricia Slavens made it an 11 point edge before Bowen scorched another three to make it 14.
Sparta brought Armock back on the floor and her triple along with a pair of free throws by Maryn Larson kept the margin within reach at 13 heading for intermission.
The second half started with the Vikings taking charge and running off a quick 10 points. Larson hit another pair from the charity stripe that were answered by a Slavens bucket and with less than 2 minutes left in the third the Vikings were in the driver’s seat with a 41-18 lead.
Then it began.
Armock hit for two then Vandenberg whose shot and betrayed her all night hit her first points of the game a rifle shot from beyond the arc. A stop and a Hoover triple followed by a turnover and another Vandenberg three and suddenly the lead was an even dozen heading into the 4th.
With Armock leading the charge the Spartans battled back while the Vikings could not connect. Armock connected twice, Larson scored and Vandenberg nailed another three but it was the second Larson basket that made it a one point game. The Spartans had just completed a 22-0 run and Tri County was scrambling to find someone to stop the bleeding with less than 2 minutes remaining as a game they had well in hand was slipping away along with their title hopes.
Dayoni Mahlich one of TC’s senior players did not want this to be her last game. Her team had gone cold and needed some quick relief so she came down court and promptly zapped in a triple to make it a 4 point game and breathe life back into the Viking offense.
Sparta missed a shot then promptly began fouling to get back in the game. Bowen went 1-2 and Overbeek did the same to make it a 6 point lead but the Spartans clawed back with a free throw off Armock and a tough rebound bucket by Vandenberg so with 14 ticks it was again a 3 point lead.
The Spartans fouled Overbeek, another senior member of the Vikings. She had scored the first of her teams points and now she would score the last. Her first free throw gave TC the 4 point edge they needed.Vandenberg split at the line for Sparta but by then just 2 ticks were left on the clock and The Vikes were heading for Grant and Regional play.
We caught up with a happy but clearly emotionally spent Coach Chris Overbeek afterwards.
“How about Mahlich stepping up and hitting that three? There was a lid on that basket and it was a huge shot for her and us.
“We played as well for 2 ½ quarters as we have all year. You know we talked a lot in the locker room before the game during the game and at the half about not allowing runs. To win tournament games you need to have runs but not allow them.We had a heckuva run in the second and third quarter but they answered with a huge one.
“I told Matt(Sparta Coach McCallum) afterwards what a great job his kids did not quitting.I was just glad we pulled it out. The girls said “Coach we just made it more exciting, that’s all,”
“Now we’ll get ready for South Christian and see what we can do,” he added. “I know I’ve got a lot of film to watch this weekend.”
The Vikings (15-8) will face off against the OK Gold champion Sailors (18-4) Tuesday at 7:30pm in a game preceded at 6pm by Comstock Park vs, Oakridge. The Regionals are being held at Grant.