Niles claims No. 1 spot in Big 16 with win over Benton Harbor

Published 8:43 pm Saturday, February 18, 2006

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - There was nothing but celebration in the Niles gym Friday night as the Vikings defeated Benton Harbor 60-51 to take control of the Big 16 West Division conference.
Niles went 7-for-12 at the free throw line in the final minute of the homecoming night game after leading by only two, 53-51, to edge the visiting Tigers and dethrone their title.
Niles head coach Denny Parks was all smiles on the court and in the lockerroom after the game.
This is Parks' second time defeating Benton Harbor in his coaching career with the Vikes. The last time was in 2002.
The Tigers were only able to take the lead four times the entire night and never went ahead by more than two points.
A strong defensive effort on the Vikes' including by 41 team rebounds helped the Vikes keep the Tigers away from the boards.
Parks also credited the enthusiasm of the Niles fans.
After one period of play, Niles had a 19-13 lead, which was shortened at halftime, 27-24.
Trailing 25-14 with just under four minutes to play in the second, Benton Harbor went on a 10-0 run, it's only run of the night, to come within one point of the lead, 25-24.
But a last-second bucket by Mat Peters gave the Vikes the three-point lead at the half.
In the third, the Tigers tied the game at 27 when Devino Williams, who had 24 points on the night, made a lay-up over the top of senior Nick Etzcorn.
Etzcorn wasn't frustrated with Williams' bucket, as he scored eight points in the period for Niles to help boost the lead to 44-39 entering the fourth.
Junior Delriko Curtis had a strong showing for the Tigers in the period as he went on to score 12 of Benton Harbor's 15 points in the third.
Williams tried to put on a one man show in the fourth, scoring nine points throughout the period and bringing the Tigers within two points of a lead, 53-51, but the combination of Nate Parks, Ben Hansen, Brandon Thomas and Tom Robson at the free throw line sealed the win for Niles.
Thomas led Niles with 19 points, Etzcorn had 13, Robson had 10, Hansen had eight and Parks had 10.
Other than Williams, only three additional players scored for the Tigers. Curtis had 16, Kalyn Meeks had eight and Larry Bell had three.
Niles, now 5-1 in the conference, will return to action next Friday when it travels to St. Joe for another West Division match-up.
Junior varsity
Niles' junior varsity team was also victorious over Benton Harbor Friday night, 74-65.
The last time the two teams met, the Vikings lost by 26 points.
Paul Dreher led the team in scoring with 26 points. Zach Bloss had 11 and Andre Thompson had 10.