Ben Patrick wanted to give his Northridge High School boys basketball team a different look when he scheduled the Viking Challenge home holiday tournament, and the second-year coach was not disappointed in the results.
The Vikings faced a quick and physical Columbus South team in the championship Dec. 31, but lost to the Bulldogs 62-50 to finish as runners-up in the inaugural event.
"(South) probably will be the quickest team we see all year," said Patrick, whose team was 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the LCL before playing Watkins Memorial on Jan. 3. "That's a team that will be highly seeded in the Division II district (tournament).
"(The Bulldogs) are a strong, quick athletic team. We won't see anything like this again for a while unless we go up against Ready in the (Division III district) tournament."
Northridge trailed 39-22 at halftime, having committed 16 turnovers against South's pressure defense. The Vikings had only three turnovers in the second half.
"We didn't start well against (the Bulldogs') pressure," said Chris Wilkoski, who scored four points. "We were throwing the ball away. We came out in the second half and stayed together as a team.
"We were passing through the press and talking through it. Communication is so important on the court and we knew we had the ability to (break the press)."
Patrick said his team might have been intimidated by South.
"We had trouble with the press early," he said. "We see a lot of teams fall back in a zone against us, but not that much pressure. We were kind of intimidated, but once we got used to it, we were handling it well.
"We knew what was coming, and we had to settle down and not panic. We panicked in the first half and we were throwing around the ball just to get rid of it."
Gavin Shank led the Vikings with 12 points and Matt Grindle scored nine. Chad Campbell and Greg Wilson both had eight points.
"This game showed us that we can play with anyone," Grindle said. "We played well in the second half, but we killed ourselves in the first half with the big deficit. This will be extremely helpful for us when we go back to the LCL."
In the opening round of the Viking Challenge on Dec. 30, the Vikings defeated Northside Christian 54-36 as Brad Wilson scored nine points and Jacob Neff had eight. Grindle and Wilkoski added six points apiece.
On Dec. 20, the Vikings lost to Newark Catholic 57-45 in LCL play. Campbell and Grindle both scored 11 points, Bryant Garee had 10 and Shank added seven.
Boys swimmers win at Newark meet
The boys swimming and diving team won a five-squad meet Dec. 28 at the Licking County Family YMCA, scoring 53 points to finish ahead of host Newark (14), Lakewood (10), Heath (8) and Watkins Memorial (8).
The Vikings won all three relays. The 200-yard freestyle relay of Jasen Dean, Matt Scott, Chris Lindsay and Brandon Eckstein won in 2 minutes, 5.14 seconds; the 400 free relay of Bryce Curtis, Adam Eckstein, Nathan Castle and Mason Alexander was first in 5:11.26; and the 200 medley relay of Dean, Lindsay, Brandon Eckstein and Scott won in 2:19.52.
Alexander won the 200 free in 2:40.59 and Scott won the 50 free in 30.65. Brandon Eckstein was first in the 100 butterfly in 1:13.58 and Dean won the 100 free in 1:12.01.
The girls team had only three participants but finished second (18) behind Watkins Memorial (39).
Riley Love won the 200 free (2:51.42) and 400 free (5:25.84), and Josie Bunstine won the 50 free (29.74) and the 100 backstroke (1:16.37).
On Dec. 21 in the Mount Vernon Invitational at Kenyon College, the boys finished seventh (124) of 19 teams behind champion St. Bernard Roger Bacon (287) and the girls were 14th (55) of 24 teams behind champion Reynoldsburg (276.5).
Bunstine was third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:15.42 and fourth in the 100 fly in 1:05.33. Love was seventh in the 100 free in 1:01.98 and eighth in the 100 back in 1:11.62.
For the boys, Brandon Eckstein was sixth in the 100 breast in 1:16.01 and seventh in the 100 fly in 1:04.88. The 200 medley relay of Dean, Adam Eckstein, Brandon Eckstein and Scott was fifth in 2:07.74.
The 400 free relay of Steven Wickham, Curtis, Castle and Alexander was seventh in 4:45.2 and the 200 free relay of Dean, Wickham, Scott and Brandon Eckstein was eighth in 1:49.43.
Girls team looking to get back on track
The girls basketball team was 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the LCL before playing Licking Valley on Jan. 4.
The Vikings lost their fourth consecutive game when they fell to West Jefferson 44-32 on Dec. 28 in the consolation game of the Fairfield Christian Academy Holiday Classic. Belinda Marcum led with nine points, McKenna Kitchen scored eight and Sara Pribonic added seven.
Pribonic scored 27 points and made 15 of 20 free throws in the opening round of the tournament Dec. 27, but McKenzie Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Fairfield Christian a 57-55 win. The Knights led by 16 points entering the fourth quarter.
Jenna Denune scored 10 points for Northridge. Kitchen had eight and Marcum added seven.
In LCL play, Pribonic scored 23 points and Marcum added 11 in a 52-46 loss to Watkins Memorial on Dec. 21. Marcum scored 10 points, Pribonic had eight and Mikaela Pankuch added seven in a 61-33 loss to Newark Catholic on Dec. 19.
Wrestlers have two champions at Sheridan
The wrestling team competed Jan. 3 and 4 in the Big Dawg Tournament at Dresden Tri-Valley.
On Dec. 21, Northridge finished seventh (125) in the Thornville Sheridan Holiday Classic behind the champion host team (234.5).
Jake Adkins (113 pounds) and Rob Mickey (160) were champions. Michael Holly (106) placed second and Mason Royer (170) and Steele Strout (126) were third.