by Barry DeLoach
The Humboldt Vikings’ season came to end last Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class A State Tournament, losing by three points to Knoxville Grace Academy. The Vikings did not play extremely well, faced a tall Rams team and struggled at the free throw line before falling 62-59. For the Humboldt fans and supporters, the officiating wasn’t great but the Vikes still had a chance to win. But the Rams were simply better on Thursday and they advanced.
The Vikings come back to Humboldt after a remarkable season and a record of 31-2.
Humboldt got on the board first as senior Kortland Martin scored for the Vikings on their first possession of the game. Knox Grace scored five straight to take the lead before senior Jarred Walker made it 5-4 with 6:20 left in the first period. The officiating was tight as the Vikes were whistled numerous times in the quarter and the Rams hit 7-of-9 from the charity line in the quarter. With 2:51 left in the quarter, the Vikings were already down seven points until Martin canned a three from downtown Murfreesboro and Josh Glenn made it 13-10 with a free throw. Grace would hit 3-of-4 from the foul line as the Vikings were ice cold and trailed 16-10 after one period of play.
Senior Devonte Bennett worked hard to score the first bucket of the second quarter as the Rams tall front line was blocking and altering Humboldt shots. Turnovers hurt the Vikings early in the second period as well. With 5:24 left until halftime, Humboldt found themselves down 24-12. After a Humboldt timeout, Walker hit a long trey to make it 24-15. Senior Carlton Childs scored on back-to-back possessions as the Vikings cut it down to 24-19 and the crowd was getting back into the game. After another Knox Grace bucket, the Vikings started a big run as Bennett scored in the paint. Anthony Jones made a steal and then dunked it home off an assist from Martin. After a Rams’ timeout, Humboldt got another steal and Walker fed Jones for another dunk that belonged on ESPN highlight real. Jones’ slam made it 25-25 and the entire gymnasium came to their feet. Grace scored with 42 seconds left but Jones scored on a tip in off a missed shot to make it 28-27 with 12 seconds left. Humboldt got a rebound off a missed shot and Martin threw up a prayer at the buzzer and it was answered as his shot stripped the net and the Vikings went to the locker room up 30-28. It was the Vikes’ first lead since it was 2-0.
Childs hit a bomb to start the second half but the Rams answered with five straight points to tie the game at 35-35 with 3:55 left in the third period. Justin Pankey hit two free throws and Childs had the hot hand from beyond the arc as the Vikes went up 40-35 with 3:27 on the clock. Consecutive shots from Pankey gave Humboldt their largest lead of the night at 44-37 with 2:00 on the scoreboard. Grace continued to go to the free throw line in the third period and scored on several three-point plays. With 1:07 left in the quarter it was 44-42. Jones scored with 38 seconds left and Grace’s coach got a technical called on him. Walker hit one of two from the line and headed to the fourth, the Vikings were up 47-42 and looking in control.
The Rams rallied back early in the fourth period to tie the game at 49-49. Five of their seven points came at the charity stripe. Pankey helped the Vikings reclaim the lead with 4:21 left in the game. The lead would bounce back and forth the rest of the game. Down two points with 1:57 left, Pankey tied it at 57-57 and on the ensuing possession, Childs made another steal for Humboldt and laid it in to put the Vikings up 59-57 with 1:40 left in the contest. Knoxville Grace scored quickly. Humboldt had the ball with 1:20 left and a chance to win. With 1:02 left, the Vikings missed two free throws and the Rams scored 20 seconds later to lead 61-59. After a timeout, Humboldt tried to work it in down in the low post but turned the ball over to the Rams. The Vikes would have to foul and with nine seconds left, Grace hit one of two to make it 62-59. Humboldt got a good look at a three-pointer to tie the game but it was no good and the Vikings lost 62-59 to the Rams.
The Vikes turned the ball over more than usual and struggled at the free throw line going 6-of-13. Grace was 17-of-21 on the afternoon and that was the difference in the ballgame.
Humboldt was led by Martin and Pankey with 13 points each, Childs had 12 points and Jones had 10 points in the loss. Walker had six points followed by Bennett with four and one point for Glenn.
Congratulations to Coach Ron Abernathy and his staff on a superb season. The Vikings have no reason to hang their heads. The Vikings have a good nucleus of players coming back and will work hard in the offseason to get back to the ‘Boro next season.
Congratulations to a fine bunch of seniors who will be greatly missed no doubt, Izaya Brown, Jarred Walker, Devonte Bennett, Carlton Childs and Kortland Martin.