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Charlo Vikings never quit

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CHARLO — Outside the parking lot is full of pickups, and inside the Charlo gym smells like freshly made popcorn. Locals greet each other as the Vikings junior varsity team begins its game against the Superior Bobcats, one of the tougher teams in their district. 

Viking basketball players Tra Ludeman and Webb O’Neill sat on the front row of the bleachers in Charlo gym watching on Jan. 31.

The two seniors agree the team didn’t start the season the way they wanted. 

“But we’ve improved over time,” Ludeman said. “We connect better.”

The biggest issue with the 2012-13 team is something no amount of practice, try, chemistry or teamwork will remedy. 

“We’re shorter this year,” O’Neill said. 

Ludeman added, “Not a lot of height.”

Coach Michael Brown agreed, but he said one of his Vikings’ strengths is their perserverance.. 

“They never give up. They just keep coming, coming, coming. They just don’t quit,” he said. 

And the Vikings are quick, O’Neill said, describing the team. 

“What we do best,” Ludeman said, “is transition from going really fast to slowing it down, keeping the tempo where we want it.”

All the players are hard workers, the senior duo said. The team plays each game as if it were the state championship.

Explaining why this is a different year for the purple and white, Brown said, “For the last four years, we’ve been the top notch team, the team everybody’s chasing.”

It’s an adjustment for the team; but the community is supportive, and the Vikings are improving.

“They’re getting the whole defensive concept,” Brown said.

The team is also working on taking care of the ball and avoiding turnovers.

Arlee, Superior and Noxon are all tough teams, Brown said. After that, any of the teams can beat the others on any given day.

“Overall the boys are very sharp. Their basketball I.Q. is good, and they know their roles on the team,” he added.

Brown enjoys working with the boys. It makes coming to work easy, he said. Since they are such good kids, he and assistant coach Wally Esterby can focus on basketball instead of worrying about behavior issues.

But even good behavior doesn’t prevent the flu, and flu has hit the Charlo Vikings hard. 

“Our whole team has been sick,” Brown said, “but we’re starting to turn the corner.”

He hopes the athletes will be back in top form for the district tournament Feb. 14 in Ronan.2

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