By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity boys’ basketball team had another nail-biter on the road against the Dowagiac Chieftains, winning 43-42 on the strength of some strong defensive play in the game’s final seconds.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the 3-12 Bulldogs, who have been in almost every game they have played this season but have simply had a hard time closing things out.
“Last week we played a couple of close games, so it’s good to see us pull out a close game,” Head Coach Zach Wierenga said.
Vicksburg had a 16-8 lead at the end of the first. Dowagiac narrowed the gap slightly in the second to 24-19 at the half. At the start of the third, the Chieftains became more aggressive and slowly started to mount a comeback. Wierenga acknowledged the energy shift that took place to make the game close in the third and fourth.
“Instead of taking the first look, they worked through, reversed the ball, got a really good look,” Wierenga said of the Chieftains. “They started getting the ball at the free throw line. They started doing a lot of good things offensively to make us use more energy.”
The Chieftains passed the ball well all game. Fortunately, the Bulldogs were able to limit their chances thanks to the excellent rebounding of players like Dylan Zemitans, who also had four points in the contest. Dowagiac’s limited chances came in key in the game’s final moments.
“It’s been a big focus for us for a couple weeks now to try and limit possessions to just one shot,” Wierenga said. “We’re improving, we’re getting there. It’s good to see it show up in games.”
Dowagiac finally managed to take the lead 42-41 with only 1:13 left in the game. It was the only time it led Vicksburg all night. Debiak scored again with only 30 seconds left in the game to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead. The team held defensively and ran out the clock to get the team their third win of the season.
Carter Brown was the leader for Vicksburg in scoring with 12 points. Grant Anderson had eight. Devin Debiak had eight. Evan Anderson had four. Logan Jones had three on a field goal and free throw. R.J. Vallier had two points in the contest. Luke Bainter had a successful free throw late to help keep the Bulldogs on top.
“That was a very fun game. It was intense, there’s a lot of action going on there. We’ve been kind of on the short end for a long time, so it felt good to finally win one,” Wierenga said.
While this season hasn’t been very successful for the Bulldogs, they have kept it close in most contests. Prior to the win over Dowagiac, their two games before that against Niles and Edwardsburg were decided by three points or less.
“Things have been tough, but I don’t think we’ve given up, we keep working,” Wierenga said. “Guys show up every day with great attitudes, good enthusiasm. We take a lot of pride in who we play for, and what we’re trying to do.”
By Travis Smola