Vikings drop league opener to St. Francis, 69-60

GRAYLING – A good first went south when the Grayling boys basketball team came out for the third quarter, and the end result was a 69-60 loss by the Vikings to Traverse City St. Francis in their opening Lake Michigan Conference game of the season Friday, Dec. 15.

The Vikings were off to a 2-2 start entering this week’s games, but a 0-1 start in the LMC was short of what they had in mind. Although it’s early in the season, with the Christmas break coming up, the Vikings wanted to get the conference season off on the right foot.

“We played outstanding basketball in the first half,” Grayling coach Rich Moffit said. “Our press did an outstanding job of attacking St. Francis and creating turnover situations. We did a great job of breaking their press, which resulted in easy baskets for us on the other end of the court.

“The second half was a different story. The game slowed down at the offensive end for us, and we were out of sync. We also had many fouling situations, which negated hustle, and this put some of our key guys on the bench.”

But, the coach was pleased with the way his team battled back and fought through adversity. Unfortunately, although the Vikings held the lead for 75 percent of the game, they couldn’t finish it.

Justin Nichols had a huge game for the Vikings with 32 points, making three 3-point shots in nine attempts on the night But the Vikings did not get much scoring balance, with Christian Artress the second highest scorer on the team with nine points, including a pair of treys. Brent Weismiller added seven, Conner Brill contributed four, Nick Hunter and Ryan Anderson each scored three and Trey Moffit scored two.

The Vikings made 6-of-22 shots from beyond the arc, and were 17-of-55 from 2-point range for a 23-of-77 from the floor overall. Grayling finished the game shooting a respectable 20-of-22 from the free throw line.

Grayling did a solid job on the boards, with 20 defensive rebounds for the game. But, they had only two offensive boards which was not so good and 22 total on the night. Nicholas led the way with 10 boards, but no one else had more than three.

It came on the heels of a 74-36 non-conference win over Roscommon on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

“Our guys did a great job of setting the tone of the game early, and playing at a high level of intensity at the defensive end of the court,” Moffit said. “We created several turnovers, and we were able to create a number of easy baskets as a result.

“I loved our chemistry on the floor, especially end of the court. Bottom line is that we need to continue to grow as a team, and get better.”

Grayling never looked back after taking a 21-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings outscored the Bucks, 19-13 in the second to roll into the halftime break with a substantial 40-29 lead. The Vikings took off again in the third, outscoring the Bucks, 25-9 and led, 65-38 going into the fourth quarter.

Moffit led the Vikings with 20 points, including six 3-point baskets. Hunter and Nicholas each scored 12 while Brill added 10. Sam Davis contributed eight points. Lou Cotton, Weismiller and Artress each scored three. Anderson chipped in with two and Eli Jackson had a free throw. Hunter led the Vikings with five rebounds. Nicholas dished out four assists, Anderson three and Artress two. Nicholas and Moffit each had three steals, and Anderson, Weismiller, Jackson and Davis each had two.

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