Running out of gas

POLAND – Playing on back-to-back nights is physically demanding on even the strong legs of teenagers.

Try doing it in the middle of the week, when there’s no Saturday morning hibernation to recharge the batteries.

The LaBrae Vikings and Poland Bulldogs both faced the double-duty challenge Wednesday in a makeup of a basketball game that had been postponed because of weather. The combination of an early wakeup call for school and the bigger Bulldogs proved too much for the Vikings, who wore down in the fourth quarter and lost, 67-54, in a meeting of All-American Conference rivals.

“We definitely wore down,” Vikings coach Chad Kiser said. “They’re a little deeper than us, and physically they’re a little stronger than us. We broke down mentally and physically.”

The Vikings are now 15-4. The Bulldogs improved their record to 17-2.

One player that didn’t appear tired was Poland junior Austin Wilson, who came off the bench to score a game-high and career-best 23 points. Wilson made three 3-point shots in the first half and added one in the second half.

The performance made up for what’s been a difficult season for Wilson, who broke a bone in his hand during a practice following the second game. The injury sidelined Wilson for two months, and he had been struggling to find his touch since his return.

“I thought it would be a regular night again,” Wilson said. “Same, old game, but as soon as I started hitting and started feeling that I was on, I kept shooting.”

Wilson’s hot hand rubbed off on some of his teammates, especially in the fourth quarter. Kyle Dixon made three 3-point shots in the period in scoring 11 of his 13 points as the Bulldogs finished in a flourish with 25 points.

The fourth quarter began with Poland scoring the first eight points to extend a streak of unanswered points to 15 and stretch its lead to 50-38.

“Austin Wilson did an amazing job,” Bulldogs coach Ken Grisdale said. “He came in and gave us a spark. Coming out of football he had both groins polled, so he didn’t do anything in the first week and a half to two weeks of practice. As soon as he comes back he drives to the hoop and breaks his hand.

“It’s tough for him because he wants to be in, but he hasn’t felt confident. Tonight I think the other guys got energized because of him.”

The Vikings had some promising moments before their fourth-quarter struggles. They led 10-7 after one quarter and trailed 26-23 at halftime. LaBrae handled Poland’s defensive pressure well in the third quarter and took a 31-28 lead.

The Vikings had a 36-35 lead when the Bulldogs went on their 15-point run.

LaBrae senior Peyton Aldridge had a nine-point second quarter but couldn’t get off many good shots as he finished with 16 points. Blake Sprague had 12 and Marcell Richardson scored 11 for the Vikings.

On the positive side, Kiser felt that playing a good Division II opponent was the perfect primer for the upcoming Division III district tournament.

“Absolutely,” Kiser said. “As long as you learn from it.”

Dan Black and Jared Burket both scored 12 points for the Bulldogs.