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Photo by Chelsea Buchanan
The Lady Vikings' Ashley Watkins works her way past a trio of Rio players in Saturday's win over the Roadrunners at Barstow Community College.

Vikings take twinbill from Roadrunners

BARSTOW • At this point in the season, the Barstow Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams both need all the wins they can get to improve their chances of making playoffs. In their latest games, the Vikings and Lady Vikings got the job done.

Rio Hondo came to town for a twinbill on Saturday, and Barstow wound up on the winning end of both games. First the women played and the Lady Vikings beat the Roadrunners, 49-37, and the men then followed up with their own victory, 72-61.

Two in a row
For the Lady Vikings, the win came on the heels of Wednesday’s thriller at Victor Valley, a squeaker that Barstow pulled out by a 55-54 score. It’s the first time the Vikings have won back-to-back games this year.

“The girls were energized fom their big win at Victor Valley. We took the day off Thursday, and had a good practice yesterday,” said Barstow head coach Tim Woods. “I’m proud of the girls, they executed for the most part. This was a big win.”

Both teams were cold from the floor in the first half, which ended with the Lady Vikings ahead by two. The Roadrunners were hurt by having just six players dressed for the game, with the bulk of their scoring coming from two players. Shelvena Turner and Klarissa Ayala each netted six points in the first half, Ayala on a pair of three’s.

The Vikings were able to spread out their scoring, with Ashley Watkins, BreAnna Fraser, Chanel Green, Karissa Hayter, Brittany Fraser and Shante Thomas all hitting at least a free throw in the first 20 minutes.

Barstow kept a lead of a few points through the first part of the second half, pulling away when there were about seven minutes left. Point guard BreAnna Fraser did a good job getting the ball downcourt against the Rio defense, with Watkins and Thomas working the ball around andtheir way into the paint. With more of a bench to work with, coach Woods rotated his players liberally.

Thomas led the Lady Vikings with 15 points, with Watkins right behind with nine points. Thomas also had four rebounds, an assist and block, while Watkins took down three boards. Brittany Fraser grabbed the most rebounds on the team, seven.

“That kind of scoring is what we need from her (Thomas), it gives us a chance when she does that,” said Woods. “Watkins controlled the game and got some big rebounds.”

Turner finished with a game-high 21 points.

“I have to give them credit,” said Woods. “They had just six girls, and battled to the end.”

The win leaves the Vikings with records of 9-12, 3-4.

“We still have a shot at the postseason. We can afford maybe one more loss,” said Woods. “It will be a challenge, but I think the ladies are up for it. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

For their part, the Lady Vikings think they’re ready, too. The players have seen themselves steadily improve this season, and are encouraged by the progress.

“Our teamwork is better, we’re starting to play off each other,” said Watkins. “It took a little time, but we know what our strengths are now.”

“We got off to a rough start, but we’re pulling it together,” said Thomas, who added that getting comfortable with each other has been a big part of the process. “Off the court, we go to each other’s houses and have pot lucks together. We’ve been doing a lot of team bonding, and between that and working hard in practice, it’s winning us some games.

“I think we have a shot at the postseason. It won’t be easy, but we’ll keep fighting. We’re not going to stop.”

Men win nightcap
The BCC men played a game similar to the women’s team on Saturday, having a much better second than first half. The difference was, instead of the home team having a two-point lead at halftime, it was three points, and it was the Roadrunners who were on top.

Like the Lady Vikings, the men took their shots in the first half, but didn’t hit their stride offensively until the second.

“We went just 7-for-33 from the field in the first. I told the guys at halftime to relax,” said Vikings head coach Reggie Howard. “This is a scrappy team with good foot speed, but sometimes you need to slow down a little. It’s just a matter of taking the extra second, making the extra pass.”

That advice evidently worked. After putting just 21 points on the board in the first 20 minutes, Barstow poured in 51 in the last 20. After being quiet in the first, Shey Mataele lit up the gym after the break, scoring 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Leading the way from beyond the arc was Erik Burns, who scored 15 points, all from the outside.

“Erik has had seven three’s on two occasions this season,” said coach Howard. “He told me during the pregame he was feeling good. He’s pretty dependable; if he’s open, he’ll knock it down.”

In all, nine players scored for the Vikings. Mataele added five rebounds, two assists and two steals to his point total, with 10 points and four boards for Evan Jenkins. Emani Gant had eight points and eight rebounds, with eight points also for Denzel McCloney.

Even though it was a win, there were a couple of things that concerned Howard. The Vikings took a total of 18 personal fouls, and were assessed two technicals.

“From a basketball standpoint, as a team, this was a step backward. You never want to get two technicals, and we can’t afford to be giving away points on fouls,” said the coach. “We wanted this game bad, but you can’t show your emotions in front of the refs. We can’t be demonstrative like that, we have to control our emotions.”

The Vikings are now 6-13 overall and over .500 in the Foothill Conference, at 4-3. They’re currently in fourth place, and still have a chance at playoffs.

“Usually the top four from the Foothill make it, so our goal is to maintain the fourth seed,” said Howard. “It’s not automatic, but if we hold onto fourth place, we have a good chance at the postseason.”

That will be determined, for both the Vikings and Lady Vikings, over the next month.

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