More than 35 minutes after the Northridge High School boys basketball team lost to visiting East Knox 51-44 last Tuesday, Justin Howard still was shooting around in the school's gymnasium.

More than 35 minutes after the Northridge High School boys basketball team lost to visiting East Knox 51-44 last Tuesday, Justin Howard still was shooting around in the school's gymnasium.

Shooting has become a near-obsession for Howard, who arrives an hour early each school day with teammate Cody King to work on his shot.

The extra practice must be paying off. The 6-foot-1, junior guard had made 10 3-pointers in his last three games before last Friday. Howard had four 3s and led the Vikings with 19 points in last Tuesday's MBC loss to the Bulldogs.

"I don't know if it's helping me, but I do feel more comfortable out there," said Howard, who had three 3-pointers to account for all nine of his points in a 53-43 loss to Fredericktown on Jan. 22. "I think that the more reps I can get in, the better I'll be."

On Jan. 19 in a 64-60 win over Heath, Howard had 21 points with three 3s. Coach John Wheeler said Howard sometimes has to be prodded into taking shots.

"Justin is such an unselfish person that it carries over onto the court," said Wheeler, whose team plays a league game Tuesday at Danville. "I've been begging him to shoot the basketball more, and he should because right now he's playing with a lot of confidence."

The Vikings were 3-11 overall and 1-7 in the MBC before playing Centerburg last Friday, but Wheeler said his team continues to make improvements through hard work.

That trait was on display as the Vikings trailed 43-24 with 1 minute, 5 seconds left in the third quarter, but went on a 17-3 to cut the deficit and would later trail by four, 48-44, with 13 seconds remaining.

"We have some good basketball players, and they can scramble when they need to," Wheeler said. "Right now, we're playing our best basketball of the season. Our record might not show it, but we're getting better every day."

Aaron Estep finished with 10 points and E.J. Snyder had six rebounds with six steals for the Vikings last Tuesday. Caleb Higgins added five points.

•The girls basketball team won its second game of the season last Wednesday with a 44-31 non-league victory at Hamilton Township.

"We came out hungry and played great defense in the first half," said coach Ron Florey, whose team led 11-1 after the first quarter and 21-9 at halftime. "This is just a catalyst for us to build on and try to improve our seed for the (Division III district) tournament."

Keilah Ketron led with 12 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks. The Vikings improved to 2-13 overall before playing Johnstown last Saturday in an MBC contest. Jessica Johnson had 11 points with five rebounds, Lauren Cornwell added six points with 10 rebounds and Shannon Woosley scored six points.

The Vikings led 31-26 entering the fourth quarter and went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch to secure the victory.

"We just played hard and took care of the ball down the stretch," Florey said. "We did a good job of working the ball inside-out and all 10 of our varsity players made big contributions, and I'm pleased with the result."

•The wrestling team finished third on Jan. 23 at the five-team Utica Invitational with 150 points. The host Redskins won with 236.5 points.

The Vikings had three champions in freshman Andrew Mullens at 112 pounds, junior Tim Sullivan at 215 and freshman Anthony Verhovec at 189. Freshman Alex Blake (171), sophomore Ricky Cella (152), freshman Shane Mulligan (130) and freshman Tom Williams (125) were runners-up, and junior Bradley Verhovec (145) was fourth.

"I always want them to do better, and I have to keep reminding myself that they are doing a pretty good job because most of the kids are only freshmen," said coach Bill Perry, whose team had last weekend off and will compete Saturday in the John Deno Classic at The Plains Athens.

"They have been making mistakes in line with (being freshmen), so it's something you deal with right now."

The MBC meet is Feb. 13 at Utica in the final meet of the regular season. The Vikings are the host team for a Division III sectional tournament on Feb. 19-20, but the event is not at Northridge.

The sectional is at Utica since the Vikings had a boys basketball game at home on Feb. 13, but Northridge is still considered the host team.


At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Northridge boys basketball, girls basketball and boys and girls swimming teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 22 -- Lost to Fredericktown 53-43. E.J. Snyder scored 15 points, Justin Howard added nine points, all coming on three 3-pointers, and Connor Burke also had nine points. *Last Tuesday -- Lost to East Knox 51-44 *Last Friday -- Played Centerburg *Tuesday -- At Danville in a makeup from Jan. 8. Northridge won 65-51 and 60-51 last season. *Friday -- Home vs. Johnstown. The Vikings lost 63-43 on Dec. 22 as Aaron Estep and Howard scored 10 points apiece to lead the Vikings. Burke added eight points. *Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Danville

Of note: The Vikings were 3-11 overall and 1-7 in the MBC before last Friday.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Jan. 23 -- Lost to Centerburg 53-34. Keilah Ketron led with eight points and both Lauren Cornwell and Sierra Fronk added five points apiece. Last Monday -- Lost to Highland 50-37. Ketron had nine points to lead Northridge and Shannon Woosley added eight points. Kelsey Garrabrant and Jessica Johnson both had six points apiece. Last Wednesday -- Defeated Hamilton Township 44-31 *Last Saturday -- Played Johnstown *Thursday -- Home vs. Danville. The Vikings lost 39-25 on Dec. 19 as Ketron scored 10 points, Cornwell added eight points and Johnson had six points. *Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Loudonville. Northridge lost 55-27 on Jan. 14. Feb. 11 -- At North Union. The Vikings lost 51-38 last season.

Of note: The Vikings were 2-13 overall and 0-10 in the MBC before last Saturday.

*MBC contest

SWIMMING

Jan. 22 -- Boys: Lost to Hartley 76-24; Girls: Lost to both Columbus School for Girls (103-36) and Hartley (118-21). Genevieve Hager was second in both the 50 freestyle (27.06) and 100 free (1:00.69). Jan. 23 -- Boys: Finished third (46) behind Bloom-Carroll (126), Newark (51) and ahead of Beechcroft (29). Paul Hager was runner-up in the 100 breaststroke (1:21.47), Joe Larson was second in the 200 butterfly (1:18.44) and Eli Philpott was second in the 200 free (2:49.82). The 400 free relay of Larson, Beau Hammock, Philpott and Paul Hager was second in 4:47.48 and the 200 free relay with the same four swimmers was third in 2:03.85; Girls: Finished second (99) behind Newark (135) and ahead of Bloom-Carroll (28) and Beechcroft (16). Genevieve Hager won the 100 free (1:08.17) and was second in the 50 free (30.76) and Mickellea Tennis won the 200 individual medley (3:05.7). Allison Everhart was second in the 200 free (2:55.06). The 200 free relay of Tennis, Everhart, Kendra Bonnette and Genevieve Hager won in 2:12.96 and 400 free relay of Tennis, Bonnette, Everhart and Genevieve Hager won in 5:01.33. The 200 medley relay of Marcie Boyce, Ali Herbert, Tennis and Bonnette was second in 2:38.67. Friday -- At Newark YMCA vs. Mount Gilead, Newark and Newark Catholic Saturday -- At Ohio University for SEOSL Meet Feb. 13 -- At Columbus Academy for Division II boys and girls sectional meets

*SEOSL match