Chris Doetch, JJ Ford and Jack Christensen await a rebound opportunity.

The North Boone Vikings have recently battled through a challenging part of their 2023-2024 boys’ basketball schedule. They had back-to-back matchups against Rock Falls and Pecatonica, who both combined for nearly forty wins on the season. Those matchups came shortly before the Vikings had to face off with a 21-win Byron Tigers team.

In the middle of all that, North Boone had to make a trip to Winnebago to face off with the Indians. On paper, this looked like an even matchup for the Vikings. North Boone came into the game with a record of 8-16, while Winnebago was just 8-14 themselves. Winnebago was coming off a victory over Genoa-Kingston, while the Vikings were coming off a disappointing loss to a two-win Stillman Valley squad, however.

The game opened with an excellent back and forth race on both offensive ends. Chris Doetch, who plays a little bit of everything for the Vikings, got the game started with a beautiful assist to JJ Ford. After Winnebago answered, Doetch got on the board with a turnaround jumper. Once again, Winnebago would answer, however.

With scores on the first four possessions of the game, there looked to be no shortage of offense. Doetch’s fingerprints were all over the first quarter as he continued to make an impact. A first quarter rebound by Doetch eventually led to a layup by Azriel Dixon, which gave North Boone a 6-4 lead.

Winnebago continued to answer on the other end, however, and that seemed to be the story of the night. A 3-pointer by the Indians gave them a 7-6 lead, and that sparked an early run. Winnebago hit three consecutive three-pointers as they quickly took a 13-6 advantage. The nine-point run came to an end when Doetch grabbed a steal and laid it in to bring the Vikings within five.

At that point, it was no surprise to see another Winnebago responding score. At the end of the first, North Boone trailed by a score of 15-8. Despite the quick start, the Vikings were outscored 11-2 in the final half of the opening quarter.

Some sloppy play got in the way of North Boone’s quick start as the Vikings couldn’t get out of their own way. Turnovers led to a number of opportunities for the Indians, and they took advantage. Following the game, North Boone’s head coach, Beth Doetch, spoke about the team’s consistency. She mentioned the turnovers, and the desire to get consistency from the five guys out on the floor.

“We have to get five playing well, instead of just two or three.” Beth said.

Beth’s assessment appears accurate from an outsider’s perspective. The Vikings never really had a flowing offense where all five guys were locked in. Ford was consistent, but outside of him, the Vikings were looking for answers. At times, it was Chris. Others, it was Dixon. Jack Christensen hit a couple of nice shots, but it was an overall spotty performance from the Vikings’ offense. North Boone has an excellent three-point shooter in Quinn Danner, but they struggled to get him open looks.

By halftime, North Boone trailed by a score of 32-20.

The struggles were also showing up on the defensive end. Winnebago put up 15 or more points in each of the four quarters played. Meanwhile, North Boone didn’t match that production until they put up 16 in the fourth.

With North Boone trailing by 20 points, they finally got the ball to Danner, who quickly launched his lone 3-point make of the night. That seemed to spark something for the Vikings. Dixon went two for two at the line, and then Ford hit back-to-back layups in the face of the Winnebago defense. Christensen also hit his lone three-pointer of the night.

The Vikings showed life, but they ultimately fell short of making things a game again. Winnebago capped off the game with a powerful dunk as North Boone fell by a score of 64-47. Ford led the Vikings with 20 points. Dixon was the only other Viking in double figures with 11. Chris added seven in the loss.

The loss dropped the Vikings’ record to 8-17 on the year. North Boone is set to wrap up the regular season on Tuesday, Feb. 13, when they travel to take on South Beloit.

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