On the rise
Vikings win two road games to move into second place and push win streak to four
With the regular season winding down, the Charlo Vikings let their intentions be known for the postseason with a pair of statement victories on the road last week.
Friday, the Vikings’ big men pushed their weight around in a 61-50 domineering victory over Two Eagle River, pulling down twice as many rebounds as the Eagles and scoring 28 points in the paint. Saturday in Hot Springs, it was the guards doing the damage to the Savage Heat, combining for 36 points in a 53-48 victory.
With the pair of conference victories in hostile territory, the Vikings completed the regular season sweep of both teams, moved pass the Red Devils for second place in District 14-C and made it clear that anybody that wants to play at the Western C Divisional Tournament in Butte will have to go through them.
“It showed us that the games are about to step up. Everybody played us real tough. Both games had a playoff atmosphere. You can feel that things are ready to take off,” Charlo coach Mike Brown said. “We had to really grind it out. I’m happy that we won, but we could’ve played better in both games, but at least we found a way to win on the road, that’s the important thing.”
As satisfying as the victories were for the Vikings, Brown said that they will have to step up their intensity if they plan on making it through the district tournament for the first time in his two-year tenure. He said that they can’t wait until Feb. 18 to flip a switch and start playing playoff basketball and they will have to ratchet up their intensity now. The Vikings (9-5, 6-2) will get a true measurement if they are playoff-ready Friday, when they travel to Arlee to play the Warriors, who swept them last year and have won both meetings this season.
Friday the Vikings had to weather the early storm that comes from playing a team on senior night, falling behind 23-14 after taking the Eagles’ first punch. The Vikings picked themselves off the floor and started to methodically fight back by pounding the ball inside, getting second chances and with frequent trips to foul line. The Vikings went to the charity stripe nine times in the final four minutes of the first half, connecting on five shots to take a 24-23 lead into the break. During the 10-run to end the half, Dillon Delaney knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 23-18 with about two minutes to play and a jumper by Chance Firestone in the final seconds gave the Vikings their first lead since leading 4-3. The two baskets during the run, were two of only three field goals by a Viking guard in the first half – Chico Stipe stole the ball and took it the length of the court for a 2-0 Viking lead to start the game.
“In some spurts we’d try to get in a hurry when the had the full-court press on, but for most of the game we would keep to our game plan and keep our tempo. We slowed things down and were patient on offense until we got a good shot. We actually got a lot of good looks, we just didn’t get our shots to fall,” Brown said.
Second chance points salvaged a poor night of shooting for the Vikings. Charlo outrebounded Two Eagle 50-to-24 and pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, which led to countless second chance points. Six of the Vikings 10 first-quarter points came after an offensive rebound.
“I think it starts to wear them down,” Brown said of second-chance points. “We’re patient on offense and make teams work to guard us and then we grab the rebound and they have to go to work again.” “Our size and tempo starts to wear teams down,” he added.
Chance Rosenbaum led the demoralizing charge for the Viking big men, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Listed at 6-foot-1, the senior is smaller than Chance Frame and Houston Blevins – both listed at 6-foot-4 – but what he lacks in size, he makes up in hustle. Brown said that Rosenbaum is his Kurt Rambis, flying around the court and crashing the boards. He said that when Rosenbaum comes on the court energized, “nobody can guard him.”
Blevins finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Frame pitched in with eight points and a game-high 17 boards.
In the second half, the Viking guards started to heat up, scoring 18 of their 26 points in the game in the half. With all their parts firing on all cylinders, the Vikings put the game away with a 17-7 third quarter.
Delaney led the Viking guards with 10 points. Firestone added seven and Stipe pitched in with six. Late in the fourth quarter, Garrett Herron came off the bench and scored three points.
Saturday night, the Savage Heat packed in the middle and dared the Vikings to shoot the ball from outside – the Viking guards made them pay. Stipe connected on two 3-pointers in the first quarter to loosen up Hot Springs 2-1-2 zone. Stipe, who also hit a trey in the fourth quarter to give the Vikings a cushion, finished with a team-high 17 points.
“He was killing them from the outside early on. Then he started having a mid-range game. He would pump fake and take a few dribbles in before taking his shot and the shots were falling for him,” Brown said.
Delaney, who Brown said has found his niche since coming off the bench, finished with 11 points. In the Vikings’ four-game win streak, Delaney has averaged 9.5 points. Firestone added eight points.
Brown said, “The game was basically won by the guards.” The Charlo frontcourt combined for 17 points. Rosenbaum finished with nine and Blevins and Frame each added four.
Charlo 61, Two Eagle River 50
Charlo 10 14 17 20–61
Two Eagle 12 11 7 20–50
CHARLO - Dillon Delaney 10, Chico Stipe 6, Garrett Herron 3, Chance Firestone 7, Chance Rosenbaum 17, Houston Blevins 10, Chance Frame 8.
TWO EAGLE RIVER - T.J. Cutfinger 15, James Maestas 13, Clayton Malatare 14, Trevor Butterfly 2, Shun Ikegai 2, Skyler Rossbach 4.
Charlo 53, Hot Springs 48
Charlo 10 17 13 13–53
Hot Springs 10 11 15 12–48
CHARLO - Chico Stipe 17, Chance Firestone 8, Chance Rosenbaum 9, Houston Blevins 4, Chance Frame 4, Dillon Delaney 11.
HOT SPRINGS - Zack Malinak 2, Tyler Fisher 6, Reiley Winebrenner 23, Cody Hoff 12, Mike Gray 3, Michael Brooks 2.