North Stokes and Patrick County are separated by 15 miles and are arguably one of the most heated rivals in high school sports. Thursday was no different and in standing-room only, the schools met for a second time this season and the Vikings survived a 44-43 victory in Stuart, Virginia.
“I knew this game would be a difficult game for us tonight,” said Viking coach David Anderson. “We had Zack (Chesnet) out nursing a sprained ankle and Austin (Pruitt) played, but was sick throughout the game. Our kids showed a lot of heart and toughness and we pulled through in a very hostile environment.”
Unlike the last game when the Vikings won 90-61, this game was never separated by more than five points. Layton Helms opened the first period for North Stokes with a layup on an assist from sophomore Isaac Wood for an early 2-0 advantage. The Vikings lead grew until the Cougars knotted the game at five with three minutes left in the quarter. Patrick County briefly took an 8-7 edge until Helms tallied the last four points of the frame for an 11-8 margin for the Vikings.
Joshua McQuinn made a free throw to start the second quarter, but a 6-0 run by the Cougars put them up 14-12 with 4:54 left before the half. Pruitt sparked the Vikings with a three pointer with less than four minutes left in the half and ignited a 6-0 run by North Stokes to take a 20-18 halftime lead.
“We had to settle Isaac down at halftime,” Anderson said. “He tried to force too much in the first half. He has never played in a crazy environment like this and we needed him to relax and run the offense. He made some big free throws at the end of the game to help us win.”
The Vikings were held to one field goal in the first four minutes of the third period until Michael Smith tallied eight of the 10 points scored and North led 32-29 entering the fourth.
North Stokes continued their cold shooting in the fourth quarter, but their defense was stifling as they took their largest advantage of the game at 37-32 with 4:22 left in the contest on a pair of free throws by Smith. The Vikings made a shot with 2:29 showing on the clock and Wood made 2-of-4 free throws down the stretch to hold off Patrick County for the win.
“I thought Michael Smith put us on his shoulders with some big baskets in the second half and carried us with his leadership and heart,” said Anderson. “I’m proud of the whole team. I love these guys and the effort they give us every night. I knew this week would be a challenge for us with three road games in three days, but we weathered the storm and did it.”
Smith led the Vikings with 15 points, while Wood added 11 and Helms 10.
The Vikings improve to 8-0 with wins over East Wilkes, Elkin, and Patrick County this week. They will play again on Wednesday versus the host school, Starmount, in the Cook’s Christmas Tournament at 2:30 p.m.
Lady Vikings struggle with Patrick County
Only eight points separated the Lady Vikings and Patrick County the last time they squared off earlier in the month, but Thursday’s contest was a different scenario. The ladies played their third game in three days and it showed on the court as the Cougars cruised to a 43-15 victory.
“I thought playing that many games really hurt us tonight,” stated Viking coach Scott Smith. “We played East Wilkes really well on Tuesday and had our chances against Elkin, but tonight we just weren’t there. We played tired and our defense wasn’t as good as it was earlier in the week.”
The Cougars jumped on the Vikings 10-3 after the first quarter of play and cruised to a 21-7 advantage at the half on aggressive play by the home team. They begin the third quarter on a 12-2 run before senior Karley Jessup fouled out for the Vikings with three minutes left in the period. The visitors could only muster four more points the rest of the way while the Cougars kept their starters in the lineup until the last horn.
“We never quit and that is all I could ever ask of our team,” Smith said. “We’ll continue to work and get better each day.”
Jessup led the Vikings with nine points, while Lorin Sizemore chipped in four and Morgan Mabe had two.
North Stokes dropped to 2-6 with losses to East Wilkes, Elkin and Patrick County this week. The will play again on Wednesday at 1 p.m. versus Starmount in Booneville.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.