BOYS' BASKETBALL: Vikings down Devils for AA title

Chuck Curley, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·4 min read

Mar. 13—POTTSVILLE — The last time Williams Valley's boys' basketball team won a District 11 championship, Bryce Herb's brother Tyler was a member of the 2009 title team.

There are now two District 11 basketball gold medals in the family.

Displaying a penchant for running the fastbreak after Shenandoah Valley missed shots, the Vikings rolled Friday night to a 52-37 victory over the Blue Devils in the District 11 Class AA championship game at Martz Hall.

"We're just used to running at practice, so we're good with kicking it to each other and finishing for layups," Bryce Herb said after he scored 16 points to lead the Vikings.

After a slow-paced, tightly-played first half, Williams Valley (13-8) took advantage of Shenandoah Valley's shooting woes and outscored the Blue Devils 18-6 in the third period to take firm control for head coach Denny Kasper's first district crown in 12 years.

"I think that team (in 2009) was much more talented than this team," Kasper said. "Not to take anything away from this team, but we had size. We had the whole gamut that time. These guys have just worked to get where they're at. They all play three sports and they're all great students. They just overachieve. They have a focus about them. It's a pleasure to coach them."

With the victory, the Vikings' season will continue Wednesday, when Williams Valley faces District 12 champion Bristol in the Vikings' first game in the PIAA Tournament.

The Vikings will attempt to continue the consistency of Friday night, when they shot 21-for-35 (60%) from the field and used a 3-2 zone to frustrate the 3-point-minded attack of a Blue Devil team that upset top-seeded Marian on Tuesday night.

"I think the experience mattered," Shenandoah Valley head coach Rob Miller said. "They got to play a tough team, Pottsville, in this gym (in the Schuylkill League semifinals). It was a huge advantage for them. We just never got the wheels turning completely. Williams Valley was the better team, and hats off to them and Coach Kasper."

The Blue Devils trailed 19-16 late in the first half before the Vikings' Jesse Engle scored off one of Mason Evans' four assists in the game with a second remaining in the half for a 21-16 edge at intermission.

Shenandoah Valley narrowed the margin to three, 21-18, early in the third quarter after two free throws by Nick Mikita, but Herb answered with his only 3-pointer of the night to start the Vikings' surge. After the Devils' Owen Kosar sank a foul shot, Williams Valley reeled off 15 consecutive points as Shenandoah Valley went scoreless for nearly seven minutes.

"Our legs were with us. They weren't the last time we played them," Kasper said, alluding to his team's 44-39 win in the regular season. That was part of a hectic schedule for the Vikings after 12 straight playing dates were erased by COVID-19 tracing early in the season.

"We didn't think about this during the stretch of games that we had," Kasper said. "Those 18 games in 20-some days, we just wanted to get through that. I knew if we got through that, got some rest, got some time to practice, get into a routine, we were going to be tough."

Williams Valley held a 17-point edge, 39-22, after three quarters, and Shenandoah Valley, playing a district final for the first time since 2017, cut the gap to as close as 10 points, 47-37 with 1:54 left. But the Vikings controlled the ball over the remaining time to set off a long-awaited celebration.

Brady Evans added 13 points for the winners, who got a game-best eight rebounds from Engle, who finished despite four personal fouls.

Kosar paced Shenandoah Valley with 11 points, but the Blue Devils shot 13-for-48 (27%) from the field against the Vikings' zone.

"They hung with me and my complaining and yelling and screaming," Kasper said about his team's season. "Through all of that, they were focused."

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