Runnin’ Vikes control their own NWAC Tournament destiny

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  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend freshman Mauricio Smith (0) will be a key component for the Runnin' Vikes as they try to slug their way into the NWAC Tournament.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend point guard Koby Huerta (1) is averaging 18 points a game during the NWAC schedule. The Runnin' Vikes host Treasure Valley in a critical NWAC East matchup at DeVries Activity Center.

  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend freshman Mauricio Smith (0) will be a key component for the Runnin' Vikes as they try to slug their way into the NWAC Tournament.

  • 1

    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend point guard Koby Huerta (1) is averaging 18 points a game during the NWAC schedule. The Runnin' Vikes host Treasure Valley in a critical NWAC East matchup at DeVries Activity Center.

MOSES LAKE — When the going gets tough, the tough play H-O-R-S-E.

If you’re noticing the Big Bend Community College men’s basketball team has been taking it easy the last couple of days, playing that drive-way shooting game kids play before dinner time. There is a method to the madness. For nine of 12 freshmen on the team, this is the longest season they have ever played, and the most important two are coming up.

The Runnin’ Vikes (15-11, 8-6 NWAC East) can still make the NWAC Tournament and fresh legs will go a long ways for first-year head coach Mingo Scott’s bunch when they host Treasure Valley on Saturday and finish the regular season at Yakima Valley on Feb. 28.

“With this long week, we took Monday off, played some games like H-O-R-S-E, so we have fresh legs when it matters,” said Scott, whose team has won seven of its last 10 games. “We’ve seen everybody before, so it’s a matter of going out and executing our game plan.”

Walla Walla (10-3) sits on top of the East standings, one game ahead of North Idaho (9-4) and Spokane CC (9-4). Yakima Valley (8-5), Wenatchee Valley (8-5) and Big Bend (8-6) go into the final two games of the regular season each with a chance at securing the final playoff spot. In fact, the Runnin’ Vikes have beaten North Idaho, Spokane and Yakima, so tiebreaker advantage is in their favor.

Big Bend can control its own destiny with a win at home against Treasure Valley and closing out the regular season with a win on the road at Yakima Valley.

“We’re shooting about 35 percent from 3-point range and 48 percent from the floor,” Scott said. “So we’re shooting the ball well right now. Koby (Huerta) is averaging 18 points a night in the NWAC (schedule). Chris (Hawkins) averaged 20 points a game in high school. He’s starting to find his shot.

“The key for us is to have Miles (Brown) and Mauricio (Smith) control the glass and average 10 boards a game. If we can cut down on their second-chance points, it will go a long ways.”

The Runnin’ Vikes are best when the are running. When they find that drive-and-kick, running game where they are banging it down from downtown, that’s when they are most dangerous. DeAngelo Stowers was good for 10-of-15 from the floor for 32 points in the first meeting Jan 18 in Ontario, Ore. Huerta added 21. Brown had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Runnin’ Vikes have gone 6-2 since that game, including huge wins over North Idaho in Coeur d’Alene and over Spokane at DeVries Activity Center.

“Treasure Valley is athletic and a lot of people were picking them to finish one or two in the (East) at the beginning of the season,” Scott said. “They start a 6-11 guy (Jarek Schetzle). We can’t cover him and he can’t cover us.

“So we need to make sure we spread the floor and drag him out of the key. If we do that, he’s either going to give up the open 3 or come out and guard one of our guys on the perimeter. Then we put the ball on the ground and go to the rack. Even Miles (6-8, post) can shoot the 3, so if we get him to pull out, (Schetzle) can’t cover everybody.”

Saturday’s game at DeVries Activity Center is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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