By Kennedy Werner
“Defense. Rebound. Hustle.” That is what Head Coach Chuck Spolsky said to his team day in and day out at every practice, every game, and every pep talk. And quite frankly, it worked.
Finishing the season 18-5 with a tough loss to the North Farmington Raiders in the third round of the District Championship on March 8, the Walled Lake Central Viking’s Basketball team really stepped up to their upmost potential.
At the March 8 district game – again, the third of three rounds, the team fell apart, being mentally unfocused, and lost the match (47-33). The game was extremely hype, with both student sections slashing one another and two technical fouls called, one for Central, one for North Farmington.
Senior captain, TJ Warren led the Vikings with 10 points, it being the last game of his high school career. Central also says goodbye to four other seniors including, point guard Brandon Nafso, power forward Brett Gustafson, center Jeturi Brown, and power forward Matt Boulous.
“It was a tough loss that night, but winning or losing, a team is a team and it has been a great season,” said B. Nafso.
Taking it back, in the first round of Districts, the Vikings took on the Warriors of Walled Lake Western in a rubber match with “win or go home” implications. And boy did the Vikings played like they never wanted to go home. After getting off to a slow start, trailing 13-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Vikings turned on the jets and went on run after run.
After clawing back into the game, the score was tied at the end of the third quarter. After trailing by more than 4 points with a little over 3 minutes in to the fourth, the Vikings really locked down on defense. A big part of this was Warren`s block on what would have been a game tying shot by sophomore guard Jerald Booker of WL Western in the closing seconds of the game. Putting in all the hard effort, WL Central took the win (45-42), making it a game to remember on March 4.
In the second round of Districts, played on March 6, the Vikings took on the young and fresh Lakeland Eagles. This game was lopsided from the get go. After leading by 9 points at the end of the first and halftime, the Vikings were able to coast to victory, 43-30. Talented senior point guard, B. Nafso led the Viking team with 13 points.
Prior to districts, on February 12 the Vikings defeated Waterford Mott 59-40 to win the KLAA North Division championship. Warren led the Vikings in scoring with 17 and was backed by a solid 14 from junior forward Phillip Nelson. The win boosted Central to (13-3) and a number 1 seed in the KLAA tournament which began on February 15 at Walled Lake Central.
In the first round of the KLAA tournament with home court advantage, the Vikings took on the strong and passionate Brighton Bulldogs. Starting the game off slow, the Vikings fell behind by 7 points in the second quarter. But that never held them down, and outscoring the Bulldogs by 14 points the rest of the game, the team took the contest 47-40.
In the second round of the KLAA tournament, on February 19at Walled Lake Central, the Vikings took on the Waterford Mott Corsairs for the third time this season. This semifinal matchup did not go the Vikings’ way, with the team losing 41-34. Khalil Malone led the Corsairs with 16 points.
“I don’t care what anybody says; beating any team, let alone a great team, three times in a season is tough to do,” said Spolsky.
After losing the semifinal game, the Vikings then directed their focus to winning districts where their season ended with the loss to North Farmington.
What’s next for the Vikings? “All of us guys usually go off and play in our AAU teams, and meet up again for the next year, hopefully stronger and improved, and ready to combine all of our skills for another season,” said Collins.