The Northridge High School boys basketball team is in the thick of the MBC title hunt, which makes for an exciting homestretch for the Vikings.

The Northridge High School boys basketball team is in the thick of the MBC title hunt, which makes for an exciting homestretch for the Vikings.

Before Jan. 27, Fredericktown led the league at 6-1 followed by Utica at 7-2, Northridge at 5-2, Centerburg at 6-3, East Knox at 4-5, Loudonville at 2-6, Danville at 2-7 and Johnstown-Monroe at 1-7.

"There is a tight race with Utica, Centerburg and Fredericktown and us," said coach John Wheeler, whose team was 7-5 overall before playing Centerburg on Jan. 28. "The race is up in the air and we're excited to be the position that we're in."

The Vikings also played Loudonville on Jan. 29 and will play Wednesday, Feb. 2, at Fredericktown in a game postponed from Dec. 10 because of the length of the Freddies' football season.

On Jan. 25, Northridge rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to defeat East Knox 52-43. Aaron Estep scored 13 points, Caleb Higgins had 12 points and Nick Nixon added nine points.

The Vikings lost to Fredericktown 50-43 on Jan. 22 as Tony Rios and Caleb Higgins both scored nine points and Justin Howard added eight points.

"We wasted opportunities against Fredericktown, and it cost us. We made the free throws against East Knox, and that was the difference," Wheeler said. "We missed 12 free throws with six being the front end of 1-and-1 (opportunities) against Fredericktown, and against East Knox we made 20 of 23 free throws."

On Friday, Feb. 4, the Vikings play at Johnstown. Northridge won the first meeting 59-47 on Dec. 21.

"Johnstown is not any easy place to play," Wheeler said. "They have been competitive in every game they play. Whenever these teams play, both teams are scratching and clawing to win. It will be a typical Johnstown-Northridge game."

Wheeler said the Vikings continue to get better as the season moves closer to the Division III district tournament.

"We're executing better, but we are still working toward getting better in terms of defense," he said. "The kids are working hard to keep getting better."

•The girls basketball team was 6-9 overall before playing Johnstown on Jan. 29.

"I believe we have improved a lot since the beginning of the season," coach Ashley Holmberg said. "We've recognized that by being more patient on offense, we can get the shot we want. Our defense has also made great strides, as we continue to work on our man-to-man pressure."

The Vikings showed that patience in a 59-22 win over Hamilton Township on Jan. 24. Kelsey Garrabrant scored 13 points with three 3-pointers and both Keilah Ketron and Lydia George added eight points apiece.

"Our focus lately has been to be more patient with our offense," Holmberg said. "When we are patient in our offensive set, move the ball and attack the gaps, it opens things up for us and gives us better looks both inside and out. Also, having nine girls score added to our success against Hamilton Township."

In its third game in five days, Northridge lost at Highland 43-36 on Jan. 26 in a non-league game. Garrabrant had her third consecutive game with at least two 3-pointers as she finished with eight points and two 3s. The senior guard also had 10 points with two 3-pointers in a 48-44 loss to Centerburg on Jan. 22.

"Kelsey's shooting is a huge advantage for our team," Holmberg said. "We've worked on making sure her feet are set and she is getting the looks she wants. We still need to do a better job of hitting her as soon as she is open. Kelsey has the green light to shoot and has had it from Day 1."