Francis Howell swingman Sam Hefner and his Viking teammates were grumpy and embarrassed after suffering a 17-point loss at the hands of Duchesne in the MICDS Holiday Tournament back on Dec. 23.
That setback forced the Vikings to take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror and do some soul-searching during a players meeting where opinions were not sugar-coated.
“We had a tough loss and we knew we were better that what we played, so we recommitted as a team to go out and practice, play hard, go all-out and give everything we have,” said Hefner. ”
Since that heart-to-heart, the culture of the club has changed dramatically.
Francis Howell has won 11 straight games since the MICDS Tournament debacle.
Howell gave up an early bucket and then reeled off an 8-2 run and raced to a 34-20 halftime lead en route to dispatching Gateway Athletic Conference South Division foe Timberland 69-39 on Tuesday night at Timberland.
It was another welcome sight for Howell first-year coach Kurt Jacob, a former standout player, coach, and athletic director at McCluer High School, who has the Vikings playing well in all phases of the game.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that these kids cared about being a good squad and they cared about each other,” Jacob said. “I think after we got thumped by Duchesne, the kids took a hard look at themselves and realized they were going to have a to work a lot harder and make a commitment to playing better together and when they made that recommitment, you could see things start to happen and once we won a couple of games the kids really started believing in themselves.”
Howell (14-4, 4-0) led by 11 after the first quarter and then increased the lead to 49-29 by the end of the third quarter as the Vikings defense continued to put the clamps on a solid but shot-challenged Wolves squad.
“Timberland’s a good squad and our defense shut them down the first half and allowed our offense to get going and when we make shots, we are a pretty good ball club,” Jacob said. “I’m just really happy with our chemistry, our team effort, we play hard for each other and it’s just a really good group of guys.”
Andy Jehle led Timberland (9-7, 2-3) with 15 points and Andrew Voss added 10 points.
For Hefner, seeing the club’s hard work pay off so soon has been a great change and a blast compared to the past two seasons, but he knows there is still plenty left to play for this season. “It (the streak) feels good but we’ve just got to keep it up though,” Hefner said. “We can’t content, we’ve got to keep pushing forward and keep the intensity up.”
Hefner, Brett Elifritz, and Colton White all came up big for the Vikings with 14 points, 12 points, and 12 points respectively. Senior forward Eric Schark chipped in six points.