For a game that had absolutely no postseason stakes on the line, the Northwest Vikings sure came out to play on Thursday night against the Clarksville Wildcats like it did.
The Vikings entered the night 1-9 compared to Clarksville’s 11-2, and the Wildcats had already defeated Northwest by 26 in November. But the underdogs didn’t back down: they took a lead into halftime before eventually falling 49-43.
It’s Northwest’s smallest margin of defeat this season and tied for Clarksville’s smallest margin of victory. The 49 points scored for CHS is their fewest by 12.
NWHS head coach Aaron Wallus was rightfully proud of his guys.
“Execution-wise, (this was) probably the best game we’ve played all year.”
But down the stretch, the Wildcats just had more firepower. Jahiem Berry nailed six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points, and JJ Wheat closed out the game by scoring nine of his team’s 12 fourth quarter points.
The result provided much-needed close game experience for Clarksville. It was only their fourth game this season out of 14 that resulted in a single-digit point spread.
“There’s some little quirks that we need to work on; some of the end of game strategies that we have. We’ve been winning by large margins right now,” said CHS head coach Ted Young. “It’s hard to simulate that in practice, the end of game strategy, so we needed a game like this to be able to study so we can say ‘this is where you need to be’ and ‘this is where this is supposed to be’ and ‘this pass should have gone here, not there.’
“Great time in January to really be challenged in a game that was totally meaningless, but it was great to be challenged. Northwest will make some noise over there.”
The same goes for Northwest – Thursday’s game was their third single-digit game out of 11.
“It was an opportunity for us to talk to our guys about how important one or two possessions are, which can win or lose you big games,” Wallus said. “Championships. We haven’t been able to talk about that all year, so we got to talk about it, and the guys felt how it feels. One or two possessions, when you’re not locked in mentally, boom. That can make the difference in winning or losing.”
The Vikings recently got guard Caleb Patterson and forward Joshua Youngblood on the court for the first time this season. The two combined for 11 points against Clarksville, and they bring something that the team desperately needs.
“Talent,” Wallus said.
“Our whole team, our whole program, has been working hard all year. It’s really frustrating when we work hard, yet we’ve taken some really bad losses. Our schedule is tough. That was frustrating for me and some of the guys. They bring talent, some grit, some toughness that we need in certain spots.”
Northwest will return to the court on Friday, Jan. 21 against the 1-14 Dickson County Cougars while Clarksville turns their attention to their rival Rossview (7-7).
Northwest Vikings (43): Damiah Smith 11, Tacarey Monday 9, Caleb Patterson 7, Servontae Williams 7, Joshua Youngblood 4, Isaiah Kendrell 3, Scott Batista 2.
Clarksville Wildcats (49): Jahiem Berry 22, JJ Wheat 19, Joseph Schreiber-Rivera 4, Arnett Hines 4.