Vikings lock up West Division championship

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, March 4, 2006

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - It was an emotional night for the seniors of the Niles varsity basketball team Friday.
It was the last home game of the season, last regular season game and Senior Night. In the end, the Vikes celebrated with a 45-37 victory over visiting Dowagiac to claim the Big 16 West Division title.
Before the start of the game, seniors Nate Parks, Nick Etzcorn, Pete Brandstatter, Nate Orr, Tom Robson and Ben Hansen were recognized with their parents.
Which could explain why it took three periods for Niles to play its kind of game.
Parks admitted that the sadness had an impact on his teams performance, but he also stated that the Chieftains are a much improved basketball squad.
Both teams struggled to make baskets early in the game, which resulted in a very low scoring first half.
Dowagiac was able to lead after the first quarter, 7-5, the second, 18-17 and the third, 26-24.
But in the fourth, the Vikings got the spark they needed to kick themselves in gear.
Sophomore Brandon Thomas opened the scoring in the final period when he scored back-to-back buckets to give the Vikes a 28-26 lead.
But it was the senior leadership of Parks that allowed Niles to stretch the lead even further.
Parks had some very big plays, which included a steal and a three-pointer at the end of the third. He then carried that momentum into the fourth, where he bombed another three and had two more steals, followed by three free throws.
Parks even gave his five senior teammates the chance to start in their final home game of the season, while he sat out for the entire first period.
Parks' three allowed the Vikes to take a 31-26 lead with 5:43 left.
Jamie Simpson was fouled and went 1-for-2 at the line, but Danny Rodts turned around and nailed another three for Niles to extend the lead to 34-27.
Dowagiac was able to come within six points of a tie, 38-32, when senior Michael DeRose made a three-pointer, but a strong defensive effort by Niles kept the Vikes ahead for the remaining three minutes.
Parks led the Vikes with 15 points, which is also a season best for him. Thomas had eight and Rodts and Orr each had five.
For the Chieftains, no player scored in double digits.
Jamie Simpson had eight points, David Stuppy, DeRose and Chris Primley all had six and Andrew Cuthbert and Amos Clark III had five points each.