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Vikings set for Regional battle with Zionsville

PASS: Senior forward Sawyer Stoltz looks to pass the ball during Huntington North’s 51–40 win over Wayne in the Sectional championship. Stoltz scored 11 points in the Vikings’ victory and leads the team with 344 points this season.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

For the first time since 2001, the Huntington North boys basketball team will be competing at the Regional level of the postseason when they face Zionsville, the No. 7 team in the AP poll, in the Regional semifinal at Logansport High School.

The Vikings, who hold a 22–4 record and are riding a seven-game winning streak, punched their ticket to the Logansport Regional by posting a trio of impressive Sectional wins last week.

Huntington North first enjoyed a pair of revenge victories by defeating Homestead 48–34 in the Sectional quarterfinal and cruising past South Side 53–32 in the Sectional semifinal to set up a date with the host school, Wayne, for the Sectional championship.

In the title game, the Vikings rode hot shooting and a dominant second quarter to a 51–40 win to earn Huntington North’s first Sectional title in 18 years.

Four Vikings hit double figures in the championship game, as senior guard Zach Daugherty led the way for Huntington North with 13 points. Senior guard Trey Williams and junior forward Jordan Hollowell each drained 12 points, while senior forward Sawyer Stoltz added 11 points. Junior guard Deven Newcomb rounded out the scoring with three points.

The Sectional title boosted the Vikings to No. 12 in the most recent AP poll.

Despite not having never faced Zionsville before, the Vikings have been preparing well throughout the week.

“It’s been a pretty good week,” said head coach Craig Teagle. “We gave the kids Monday off; we didn’t want to change the length of the practice week because most of them have been four days once you got going. I thought they looked pretty fresh on Tuesday when we practiced. We just worried about us all on Tuesday working on defensive principles and some offensive things. (Wednesday) night we did a little bit more of our defense and offense and then started looking at Zionsville a little bit trying to figure out and scheme out how we’re going to guard some of their offense and how we’re going to guard some of their personnel.”

Zionsville, who sports a 20–5 record, returns to the Logansport Regional for the second consecutive year after blasting McCutcheon 64–41 in their Sectional championship game.

The Eagles boast a tall and talented roster capable of filling the scoresheet and limiting the opposition.

“The size is significant,” Teagle said. “They start a six-nine kid, a six-six and a six-four, and then they have six-10 and six-six and another six-six kid, I believe, they’ve been playing off the bench. They’ve been mainly a zone team; two-three and a three-two zone and obviously they do that because of their size and length just keeping you away from the rim. … It makes it tough on us. We’re going to have to be really patient and we gotta find some looks inside. … I don’t think for us (relying on taking three-pointers against Zionsville) is a recipe for success. I think we have to go inside out. I think we have to shoot more twos than we do threes. If we don’t do that, I don’t think we have a chance. They play a lot faster. They want to score. About 68 a game, I think, is their average. We’d like it to be in the 40s. I think the lower the score, the better chance we have to win the game.”

Zionsville’s highest point total in a game this season came in a 94–61 blowout of Anderson on Dec. 15, while the Eagles’ best defensive outing came in a 54–39 win over Brownsburg on Jan. 25.

Though Zionsville’s roster features many skilled players, the Eagles’ standout is clearly Isaiah Thompson, who has poured in 581 points this season, good for 23.2 points per game. The Purdue commit scored 16 points for the Eagles in the Sectional championship match.

“He’s a kid I don’t know if we can do anything with,” Teagle said. “He shoots it so deep, he gets to the rim, he’s so quick. We gotta try to keep him out of transition and keep him out of the paint. I don’t know if it can be done or not, but that’s going to be a big job. If we can do that, that certainly helps our chances.”

However, Thompson is not the sole weapon in Zionsville’s arsenal. Nathan Childress is also a handful, having scored 370 points this season for the Eagles, including a game-high 18 points in Zionsville’s Sectional title game.

Much like the Wayne Sectional, the Vikings are expected to have overwhelming support from the Huntington community, as over 1,000 pre-sale tickets have already been sold at Huntington North throughout this week.

“(The support) has been outstanding,” Teagle said. “It felt like when we were playing at Wayne for our three Sectional games, it felt like a home crowd having the sea of red cheering us on. I did feel like a couple times when momentum had shifted to the opponent a little bit, their cheering and getting loud really spurred us on and gave us that extra energy of adrenaline to make a couple plays. I think that’s important. We’re happy that we’re having community support. It means a lot to us.”

Should the Vikings defeat Zionsville, they would play the winner of the other Regional semifinal contest between No. 1 Carmel and unranked Northrop, which will be played prior to Huntington North’s semifinal game. Tip-off for the Regional championship game is slated for 8 p.m. at Logansport.

Opening tip-off between the Vikings and Eagles is set for Saturday at noon in the iconic Berry Bowl at Logansport.