Vikings claim district championship with a thriller
by Barry DeLoach
On Saturday night the Humboldt Vikings claimed their first District 14A title since 2013 with a thrilling 71-68 win over the Union City Tornadoes. The game was marred late with technical fouls on both squads in the last two seconds of the ballgame. Humboldt was in foul trouble all night long as Coach Ron Abernathy showed why he was the District 14A Coach of the Year by using his bench to its highest potential. In the end, the Vikings were victorious 71-68.
Playing at the UT Martin Elam Center was a great move by the Greenfield administration as a huge crowd was on hand Saturday night in another classic Humboldt-Union City match-up. Union City had defeated Humboldt in the semifinals or finals of the district tournament the last four years but this year the Vikings took home the first place plaque.
The game was close throughout as no team led by more than seven points and there were 15 lead changes during the game.
Humboldt led first on a Jarred Walker shot to start the game but UC grabbed the lead with a big three. The Golden Tornadoes led the entire quarter as every time Humboldt got close, UC would hit a bomb to push their lead back up. Kortland Martin nailed a 3-pointer for the Vikes and Jarred Walker’s buzzer beater bomb tied the game at 15-15 after one period.
With 6:16 to play in the second period, the Vikings had four players with two fouls each and trailed 22-17. R.J. Abernathy hit a jumper. Anthony Jones’ slam dunk came off an assist from Walker. Martin hit a floater in the paint forcing a UC timeout Humboldt pulled ahead by one point and led 23-22. After the timeout, Abernathy hit a long bomb as the lead went to four. Another ref whistle sent Walker to the bench with three fouls. After a Union City free throw, Carlton Childs made back to back steals. Childs fed Martin for one bucket and took the other one in for two points as the Vikes were rolling with a 30-23 advantage, forcing another UC timeout with 2:30 left in the first half. The Golden Tornadoes responded with a 7-0 run and tied the game at 30-30 with 1:07 left on the clock. Union City shot 10 free throws to the Vikings’ two in the quarter. The game was tied at 31-31 at the half.
The second half got off to a thunderous start as Anthony Jones slammed home a missed shot on a rebound. Justin Pankey scored on an out of bounds play as Humboldt led by four. With 4:52 on the clock, Walker picked up his fourth foul as UC led 36-35. Pankey gave the Vikings the lead back on a three-point play moments later. Two minutes later Pankey, Devonte Bennett and Carlton Childs all picked up their third foul. Union City took the lead by five points as Pankey and Josh Glenn got their fourth fouls and joined Walker on the bench. Humboldt closed the third quarter with a couple of free throws from Jones and then a bomb from Martin with four seconds left to put the Vikes up 46-45.
In the fourth, the lead bounced back and forth. Down by four, Humboldt went on a 6-0 run as Bennett, Jones and Walker all scored to put the Vikings up 54-52 with 5:21 left in the game. The next two minutes was an exhibition of two titans going toe to toe. During those two minutes Jones had a stick back rebound for two points and Martin took over the game from behind the arc. Martin hit three consecutive shots from three-point land and with 2:55 on the clock the Vikings led 65-59. After a Union City timeout, the Golden Tornadoes hit a bomb. Bennett scored in the low post to on a pretty pass from Martin as the Vikes led 67-62 with 1:43 left in the game. The Golden Tornadoes scored twice to cut the Humboldt lead down to one point. Humboldt began to milk the clock and with 24 seconds left called a timeout. Union City fouled immediately and Humboldt missed both free throws and the Golden Tornadoes had the ball and down 67-66 with a chance to win. Union City’s Mr. Basketball candidate had the ball when the lightning-quick Walker stole the ball and went the length of the court to make it 69-66 with two seconds left. As Walker scored, UC’s coach, Shane Cisco, was assessed a technical foul for coming onto the court. Martin went to the line and calmly sank both shots to make it a 71-66 with two seconds left on the clock. The Vikes had a five-point lead and the ball with two seconds left. But the game nearly went to overtime. As the players lined up at half court to inbound the ball, a UC player shoved a Humboldt player and another Viking player retaliated. The official only saw the retaliation and the Vikes were assessed a technical foul. UC hit both shots to make it 71-68 and had possession. UC got off a three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed in and out of the hoop giving the Vikings the District 14A crown.
The Vikings had five players in double digits with Martin leading the way with 21 points, Walker 12, Abernathy 11, and Pankey and Jones each had 10 points. Bennett tossed in five points and Childs had two points in the 71-68 win.
The Vikings were well represented in post-season awards with four players making the All-District 14A team. Justin Pankey, Kortland Martin, Jarred Walker and Anthony Jones all make the team along with Head Coach Ron Abernathy being named Coach of the Year.
It was great to win the game and be district champions. It was great to see four Vikings make the All-District team. It was great to see Coach Ab win coach of the year honors. Coach Abernathy, his coaches, and the entire HHS administration could not be more proud that all the seniors on the boy’s team made the All-Academic team as well as the team manager. Trey Reid, Jarred Walker, Kortland Martin, Devonte Bennett, Carlton Childs and Izaya Brown were all named to the District 14A All-Academic team.
Humboldt will host the first round of the regional tournament and play the loser of Dresden-West Carroll on Friday, February 25.