First-year coach Ben Patrick knew it might take some time for the Northridge High School boys basketball team to catch on to his up-tempo style of play.
The Vikings won their first two games, but Patrick's prediction seemed to become reality when a six-game losing streak followed.
Northridge, however, had put together a three-game winning streak before playing Johnstown-Monroe on Jan. 11, giving Patrick reason to believe his team had turned the corner.
"I told my assistants that when this thing starts to click, it will really take off," said Patrick, whose team was 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the MBC before playing Johnstown. "We have a new system, an up-tempo system, and the players have bought into it. That's not an easy thing to do during a six-game losing streak, but they didn't lose faith and now it's paying off."
The Vikings play at home against Heath on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and then begin the second round of MBC play Friday, Jan. 18, at Danville. Northridge's first loss came in the league opener, 68-60 against Danville on Dec. 7.
Patrick said it was no surprise the losing streak started when MBC play began.
"We're kind of the odd man out (in the league)," said Patrick, whose team lost its first four MBC games. "The other teams really want to slow things down and work on their set offenses.
"Part of what we needed to learn was to force our system on teams with different styles. We play in a league where everyone wants to walk the ball up the court. It takes effort to run our system because it's not as easy to force a team to speed up."
The three-game winning streak began Dec. 28 with a 58-46 win over New Lexington in the consolation game of the Fairfield Christian Holiday Classic.
On Jan. 4, the Vikings defeated Loudonville 56-41 for their first league victory. Matt Grindle scored 20 points and Chad Campbell had 17.
The Vikings learned to win a close game by defeating Utica 50-49 on Jan. 8. Hayden Warner scored 18 points, including the winning basket, and he also had the game-clinching steal. Grindle had nine points and Campbell and Sean Higgins added eight apiece.
"It all comes down to teamwork and that was the difference against Utica," Patrick said. "Hayden got the steal that sealed the game for us, but he got that because Caleb Crump came over on a double-team. Hayden was there with quick hands for the steal. The biggest thing is learning that it's everyone's team in the system and that it's a team game."
Girls basketball team looking to rebound
The girls basketball team had lost three consecutive games before playing Danville on Jan. 12 in an MBC contest.
The Vikings dropped to 2-10 overall by losing to Newark Catholic 64-27 on Jan. 7.
Northridge was 1-6 in the MBC after losing to Johnstown 82-39 on Jan. 5. Belinda Marcum and Sara Pribonic both scored eight points, and Mikaela Pankuch and Heidi Wolfe both added eight.
The Vikings play host to Thornville Sheridan on Monday, Jan. 14, before playing an MBC rematch against East Knox on Thursday, Jan. 17, at home. On Dec. 6, Northridge lost to East Knox 54-35 as Pribonic and Wolfe both scored 11 points.
"Game by game, we're seeing a progression, but we're looking to get solid on offense," assistant coach Dan Davis said. "We're young and we don't know how to win. We have one girl (in Pribonic) who had significant playing time and Lydia George would have played more but she suffered a knee injury and still isn't fully back from that. We also have five freshmen and all of them are playing for us."
The Vikings also play a league game Saturday, Jan. 19, at Centerburg. The Trojans won the first meeting 43-21 on Dec. 8.
Wrestlers finish fifth in WHIZ Duals
The wrestling team went 8-1-1 and placed fifth in the 20-team WHIZ Duals held Jan. 4 and 5 at Dresden Tri-Valley.
The Vikings defeated Caldwell 48-29, Duncan Falls Philo 54-24, Heath 56-15, Hamilton Township 62-15, Smithville 72-12, Springboro 39-38 and Tri-Valley 40-28. They also tied New Lebanon Dixie at 25, lost to eventual champion Barberton 39-29 and defeated Akron Coventry 39-36 in the fifth-place match.
"We were 7-1-1 in dual meets but lost a tiebreaker with Dixie and had to wrestle in the fifth-place dual," coach Eric Potts said. "There were a lot of good teams there and we were able to beat Akron Coventry for fifth."
Rob Mickey (160) went 8-0, Jake Adkins (106) and Thomas Williams (152) both went 9-1, Drew Mullen (138) went 8-2 and heavyweight Anthoney Verhovec went 7-3.
The Vikings also won MBC duals against East Knox (72-6) and Utica (68-8) on Jan. 9.
The draw for the inaugural state team tournament is Monday, Jan. 14. The regional quarterfinals will be held Jan. 23.
Bunstine sets record in 500 free
Josie Bunstine set a program record for the girls swimming and diving team Jan. 3 at Zanesville Rosecrans.
The freshman finished the 500-yard free-style in 6 minutes, 11.89 seconds to eclipse the previous record of 6:14.1 set by Gabrielle Tan in 2008.
In the event, the boys team defeated Rosecrans 50-33 and Philo 69-7. The girls team defeated Rosecrans 23-14 and lost to Philo 27-21.
On Jan. 6, the Vikings competed in the Newark Catholic Invitational. The boys team finished second (69) of seven teams behind Watkins Memorial (82) and the girls were sixth (25) of six teams behind champion Watkins Memorial (105).