Vikings eliminate Giants

Published 11:55 pm Monday, March 5, 2012

Niles students and fans storm the court following the Vikings’ 68-66 victory over two-time defending state champion Kalamazoo Central Monday night in the Class A District opener. Niles will now play host to Mattawan Wednesday night in the semifinals. The Vikings and Wildcats will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. (Daily Star Photo/JOSEPH WEISER)

The king is dead.

The two-time defending Class A state champion Kalamazoo Central Maroon Giants were knocked out of the tournament Monday night by host Niles in the opening round of the boys district tournament.

The Vikings (16-4) had been eliminated by Kalamazoo Central in each of the last two district match-ups. Niles was not to be denied Monday night before a packed house.

Having lost twice to the Maroon Giants during the regular season, including an overtime contest 10 days ago on their home court, the Vikings turned the tables on Kalamazoo Central.

With the game deadlocked at 38-38 at the intermission, Niles was able to eek out a one-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Down 45-38 with 5:39 to play in the third quarter after a three-point play by H’Ian Hale, the Vikings picked up the defensive intensity and fought its way back into the contest.

A basket and a 3-pointer by Myles Busby, who left the game twice with an ankle injury, cut the lead to 45-43 with 4:15 showing on the clock. A basket inside by Mitchell Dehn squared the contest once again, this time at 45-45 with 2:17 to go in the quarter.

Busby’s second 3-pointer of the quarter gave Niles a 48-47 lead heading to the final eight minutes of play.

From there it was senior guard Matthew McLaughlin’s time to shine.

The Niles point guard scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the quarter and seemed to will the Vikings to victory.

“We were not going to lose this game, there was no doubt about it,” McLaughlin said. “We had it in our minds the whole entire week, the whole year actually. We knew when the district pairing came out that we were matched up with Kazoo and we were going to come out and beat them that first round and eventually win this district championship.

“We’re seniors and we have been on this team for three or four years. There was no turning back. This is our year. They’ve had their time. This is our year.”

McLaughlin canned a 3-pointer to open the final quarter to extend the Vikings’ lead to 51-47. Another 3-pointer by classmate Austin Parks kept Niles in front by four points just over a minute later.

McLaughlin would hit two more triples, including one with four and a half minutes left to play to extend the Vikings’ advantage to 64-57.

From there is was just a matter of running time off the clock and holding the Maroon Giants at bay.

That was easier said than done as Kalamazoo Central showed the heart of a champion and kept battling back.

On three occasions, the Giants got the lead back to three points. Then, with time winding down and Kalamazoo Central looking for a way to get off a 3-pointer, Niles did the smart thing and fouled Hale with two ticks left on the clock.

Hale made the first free throw to make it 68-66 and intentionally missed the second hoping that a teammate could get the rebound and score or get fouled.

Quante Hill tried to tip the ball, but Parks grabbed it as time expired and the gym floor filled with happy Niles fans.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of good players on this team, but Matthew McLaughlin continues to hit the big shots when you need them the most,” Niles coach Todd Pawielski said. “Myles Busby, Austin Parks, the guys who needed to play well for us in this type of game did.

“A couple of bounces went our way late in the game. That was certainly was very dangerous at the end. We were not going to let them shoot a three, we were going to take a foul and take our chances rebounding. Austin Park did a real nice job for us tonight with seven rebounds.”

Besides his 22 points, McLaughlin also had four rebounds and two assists. Busby and Parks each scored 17 points. Busby added five assists to his totals.

The Vikings connected on 11-of-25 shots from beyond the 3-point line, which in the end was the difference in the contest.

Kalamazoo Central had just six 3-pointers. Each team had 23 field goals. The Giants were 14-of-19 from the free throw line and Niles was 11-of-18.

The Vikings will now face Mattawan in the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader.

Gull Lake will take on Kalamazoo Loy Norrix in the opening game at 5:30 p.m. Niles and Mattawan will play at approximately 7:30.


H’Ian Hale 3 6-8 13; Lee Gardner III 4 2-2 10; Allie Buchanan 1 0-0 2; Eco Dunning 3 1-2 14; Jamaal Conger 4 3-4 12; Von Washington III 2 2-2 7; Quante Hill 2 0-1 4; Jawun Gamble 0 0-0 0; Jeron Johnson 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 23 14-19 66


Myles Busby 6 3-5 17; Matthew McLaughlin 8 1-2 22; Austin Parks 4 6-7 17; Logan Harpenau 3 0-0 7; Alec Brown 0 0-0 0; Taylor Campbell 0 0-0 0; Quintin Irby 1 0-2 2; Mitchell Dehn 1 1-2 3. TOTALS: 23 11-18 68

Central 20 38 47 66

Niles 16 38 48 68

3-point baskets: Kalamazoo Central 6 (Hale, Dunning 3, Conger, Washington), Niles 11 (Busby 2, McLaughlin 5, Parks 3, Harpenau). Total fouls (fouled out): Kalamazoo Central 20 (Dunning), Niles 17 (none). Varsity records: Kalamazoo Central 15-6, Niles 16-5