KENDALLVILLE – It had been nearly a month since Huntington North had last played a game.
Welcome back, Vikings.
Trailing by a point with seven seconds to go at East Noble, Huntington North senior Sam Thompson kicked the ball to junior Dominic Cardwell at the top of the key. Cardwell let it fly as East Noble's Chris Hood, a 6-foot-9 All-State offensive lineman, put a hand in his face. Cardwell fell backwards and watched from the floor as the ball sailed through the net, giving the Vikings a 40-38 win.
It was the third time this season (and in the last three games) that the Vikings (4-1, 1-0 NE8) won by two points or fewer, each time hitting a late shot to pull ahead.
“I didn't think we'd be very good offensively because it's been a month since we played actual competition,” Huntington North coach Craig Teagle said. “East Noble always plays good defense, and we try to. We haven't sometimes. So I thought it might be low scoring, and I didn't know if we would have enough fire power to beat them.”
With just over a minute to play, East Noble senior guard Braeden Ball hit a 3-pointer, his second in the fourth quarter, to give the Knights (5-5, 0-1) the lead. Huntington North held onto the ball almost a minute before attempting the winning shot, but Teagle said that wasn't necessarily how they had drawn up the winning play.
“We had one (opportunity) before (the shot), and we missed it. We had our guy come off the elevator screen for a shot early in the possession, we were going to take it if it was there,” Teagle explained. “Our guy didn't deliver the ball, so we decided to wait. But we got a shot up and at least have enough time to get an offensive rebound then. The kids did a nice job executing on that, that's on them, they did a great job. Sam Thompson got the ball to the right guy, who had the hot hand at the moment.”
Although Thompson finished the game by assisting on the winning bucket, he might have been the hottest shooter of the fourth quarter. He scored all seven of his points in the quarter.
After Huntington North fell behind 35-30, Thompson hit a 3-pointer, scored the next basket, then made a key steal and got the easy layup to put the Vikings up 37-35.
Teagle said Thompson also hit game-winners against Mississinewa and Manchester in December.
In addition to the game-winner, Cardwell hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded that put the Vikings up 20-19 heading into the halftime break. He led the team with 15 points, and Zach Hubartt scored 14.
“Just be patient, because at some point, no matter what you do, defense breaks down, because somebody doesn't communicate, somebody gets their head turned, somebody gets lost,” Teagle said when describing the key to scoring on East Noble. “You can't be in a hurry offensively. We want to move the ball, move the ball, find that opening. And that's how they play, too. That's why the score was what it was.”
Ball led the Knights with 17 points, and Hood scored 12.