Vikings fall in Class A district title game
Published 7:57 am Saturday, March 8, 2014
KALAMAZOO — For the first two minutes of Friday’s Class A district championship game against host Kalamazoo Central, the Niles basketball team competed with the more athletic Maroon Giants on even terms.
But then, in a flash, it was as if the roof of Zuidema Gymnasium caved in on the Vikings.
Kalamazoo Central rattled off 18 straight points during the pivotal first-quarter stretch and coasted to a 70-57 victory over Niles.
The Vikings committed four straight turnovers during the 21-2 scoring run by Kalamazoo Central and finished with 25 miscues.
“They really made us pay for our mistakes,” Niles coach Todd Pawielski said about the Maroon Giants. They get off in transition so good after a turnover.
“We ended up having 25 turnovers, but we thought we needed to have 10-12 (turnovers) to have a chance tonight.”
Despite the early rally by Kalamazoo Central, Niles didn’t exactly fold up its tents.
Trailing, 27-16 after one quarter, Niles staged a brief rally of its own behind the aggressive inside play of seniors Tate Brawley and Jeremy Wortham.
The pair combined for eight early points to cut the deficit to seven, 31-24, but the Maroon Giants responded with a cat-quick 10-1 run of their own and never led by fewer than double-digits for the balance of the contest.
Niles missed its first six floor shots of the third quarter and dug themselves into a 19-point deficit three minutes into the stanza.
A 3-point basket by Brawley cut the Kalamazoo Central lead to, 56-46 during the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the Maroon Giants rallied for eight unanswered points and both coaches began the process of emptying their respective benches.
“We competed real well. Kalamazoo Central was just the better team tonight, by far,” Pawielski said. “Their athleticism was just too much to match up with.
“I thought we stood around a little too much after the shot. We needed to get our bodies on those kids to get them out of there and create some space. We just couldn’t seem to find them in the lane. They made us pay.”
Brawley scored a co-game-high 22 points to go along with a game-high 16 rebounds in his final prep game. Also seeing their final action as Vikings were Wortham, Connor Glick and Matthew Miller.
“Wonderful kids,” Pawielski said about his seniors. “They led us to 11 wins and two (wins) in the district, and basketball isn’t the main sport for any of them. Two of them are really good baseball players, one’s a tennis player, and one is a football player.
“What these kids accomplished this year, we are going to remember them for a long time.”
Niles struggled through one of its worst shooting performances of the season at the wrong time. The Vikings shot 36 percent from the field (24 of 67), a woeful 39 percent from the free throw line (7 of 18) and an ice-cold 14 percent from behind the 3-point line (2 of 14).
Niles did outrebound Kalamazoo Central by a 45-39 margin.
Kalamazoo Central was led by sophomore Orlando Little, who absolutely owned the paint against the Vikings throughout the contest. Little scored a co-game-high 22 points on an 11-for-14 shooting performance and grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds.
The Maroon Giants also got 16 points from Jordan Hunt and 15 from Hunter Hale. Kalamazoo Central shot a crisp 52 percent afield (32 of 62).
Kalamazoo Central 70, Niles 57
Gabe Stokes 2, Jeremy Wortham 8, Connor Glick10, Matthew Miller 2, Tate Brawley 22, Gavin Rasler 2, Ra’quon Glenn 7, Donte Murphy 4, Adam Langmeyer 0. Totals: 24 7-18 57
Jordan Hunt 16, Orlando Little 22, Isaiah Livers 8, Hunter Hale 15, Davarius Williams 9, Devon Daniels 0, Nikko Payton 0, Adrian Young 0, Rasaun Brown 0, Jerimiah Richard 0. Totals 32 4-7 70
Niles 16 29 43 57
Central 27 41 52 70
3-point baskets: Niles 2 (Brawley 2), Kalamazoo Central 4 (Hale 3, Williams).Total fouls (fouled out): Niles 8 (none), Kalamazoo Central 16 (none). Varsity record: Niles 11-12