Valdosta Daily Times

January 11, 2013

Vikettes, Vikings looking for first region wins tonight

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The start of the region basketball season for the varsity basketball teams at Lowndes has not been polite.

Currently, both the girls’ and boys’ teams are 0-2 in Region 1-AAAAAA, following losses to rival Valdosta and Tift County.

Both teams hope their first region wins of the season come tonight, when they host Brunswick. The girls get the action started at 6 p.m., with the boys’ game to follow at 7:30 p.m.

The Vikettes’ 0-2 in-region start comes after a 54-47 loss to Valdosta and a 55-49 loss to Tift County on Tuesday night. Both the games were on the road in hostile environments.

“I’ve gone to Tifton and probably had the far superior talent and still walked out of there with a one-point win, so getting those two road games of the way (is big),” Vikettes’ head coach Shan Garner said. “(We) are getting better every day and just playing at home will be nice.”

Playing in the tough environments, the Vikettes learned a lot about what to expect moving forward in the season, said Garner.

“They learned a lot and they heard, probably, the two largest crowds they’ll play in front of,” Garner said. “They understand how things change. You go from being ahead to a girl hitting three straight three’s and being down nine. They understand that now.”

The 0-2 start in region play for the Vikettes is their second in three seasons. In 2010-11, the Vikettes started 0-2 and finished the year with a 4-6 in-region record.

This year, Garner says despite the start, his team will be a “hard out” in the region tournament, which will be held at Valdosta High School.

“They are still with me; they understand there is a learning curve,” Garner said. “We are going to be a tough out come region time. Whether we end up seventh or first, we are going to be a tough out. That is what you want to build to.”

Garner also believes that his team can be in contention for the regular season region title, especially if they win the next three games, all of which will be played at home.

“Three wins will put us right back into contention,” Garner said. “I’m going to be honest with you, I think the winning team of this region is going to be 8-4, at best. It is going to be hard to win 10 or 11 ball games in this region. There are so many athletes and so many tough places to play.”

Tonight, the Vikettes will face the Lady Pirates. Last year, the Vikettes won the then-non-region game 67-56, despite a 40-point effort by Brunswick’s Destiny Alston.

“I don’t know if that was a fluke or not,” Garner said. “The next night I watched (Alston) score seven. I’m not sure if it was just one of those nights. All we can do it concentrate on what we can do and that starts with playing tough defense.”

The Vikings’ winless start in region play comes on the heels of an 85-44 rout at the hands of Valdosta and a 59-46 loss to Tift County.

With the two losses, the Vikings have now lost four straight games, dating back to Dec. 28 when they lost back-to-back games in the Turner County Christmas Tournament.

“We haven’t had any consistency shooting in those loses,” Vikings head coach Kingston Clark said. “We are shooting probably less than 50 percent from the free throw line and probably 20 percent from the 3-point line. I knew coming into region play it would be some tougher games than we had seen previously, but really the inconsistency on offense and defense has hurt us.”

With the 0-2 start in region play, the Vikings are in a similar situation as the Vikettes: In need of a win to right the ship.

“It is not the end of the world but we will still like a win,” Clark said. “(Tonight) is big. It is going to be hard to go down 0-3 in the region. So, we definitely have put an emphasis on this game. I just hope my kids come out and play hard and play well.”

The Vikings will try and get that win against a Pirates team that is 8-3 on the season.

“They are quick,” Clark said. “Their guards can light it up on the outside. Their guards shoot as well as those over at Valdosta. They played Camden County and lost to them in overtime but beat Moultrie by 20-plus and lost to Tifton by 10 or 12. They will be a team that will be in the top of the region.”

As for the region, Clark said he believes his team can become one of the top contenders in the region. That run starts tonight with a win over Brunswick.

“The biggest thing is taking care of tonight,” Clark said. But honestly, the region is wide open. Tifton is the team to beat, but with the way Valdosta played Saturday night, you’d think they have one of the best teams in the state.

“Every game is crucial. I told my kids, “You need to win every one of them at home.’ That is the biggest thing right now, taking care of home.”