LINDSBORG — As the weeks went by during the regular season, the Smoky Valley boys’ basketball record wasn’t progressing the way Viking coach Doug Schneider had hoped with more losses than wins.
But he had held steadfast that his team hadn’t played its best basketball, especially in the shooting department.
The Vikings had several close losses along the way during an 8-12 regular season. Yet, not a lot of people outside of their locker room believed they could overcome heavy favorite Concordia in the sub-state tournament at Chapman.
But the Vikes had a perfect storm of a weekend, knocking off Chapman in the semifinals and then stunning Concordia 69-56 in the finals, sparked by arguably their best offensive game of the year.
The reward is a trip to Emporia for the Class 4A Division II State Tournament, where it appears the Vikings received a good draw as they stayed away from 22-0 Girard, CKL rival Pratt and one of the pre-tourney favorites, Wichita Collegiate.
Instead, the 10-12 Vikings start on Thursday with 20-2 Rock Creek in the final game of the day at 8:15. A win and the Vikes would most likely play 21-1 Hugoton, which is expected to dispatch with 10-12 Anderson County fairly handily.
“This is a very good field,” Schneider said. “Girard has had a wonderful undefeated season. We have played Hugoton and they have a number of weapons that make them very good. They have only lost one game. Wichita Collegiate is really clicking right now and coach (Mitch) Fiegel always has them ready to play and play hard. Pratt is also one that we have a great knowledge of and they have been playing very good basketball. I think, top to bottom, there are very good teams playing in this tournament and that is what makes the postseason so exciting.”
The Vikings, though, start with Rock Creek.
“Rock Creek is a very good basketball team,” Schneider said. “They have a very strong nucleus of players who return from a team that took second in state last season. We know we will have our work cut out for us, but we are going to continue doing what we have done well. We are going to focus on our team aspect and do what we can to play hard-nosed defense and play with a ton of energy.”
The Vikings are led by 5-11 sophomore guard Nick Reinert, who had a 28-point game in the sub-state finals and averages 16.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Trey Schneider, a 6-2 senior, had 15 points against Concordia and averages 7.9 points and 4.1 rebounds, while constantly coming up with deflections.
6-4 sophomore Jason Adams takes care of the inside work, averaging 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. Completing the lineup are 6-0 senior guard Trapper Bellah (3.6 points, 2.5 rebounds. 2.5 assists) and 6-1 senior Jarod Meier (4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds).
Off the bench there’s firepower in the form of 6-3 sophomore Brett Heitschmidt, the team’s second leading scorer at 8.0 points and he also yanks down 4.7 rebounds. It’s a rather short bench, though, as senior Dylan Goodell and junior Ross Schrag are next men up.
The Vikings have not won a state championship since the magical 1982 season when they went through the season undefeated.