Huntington North senior Trey Williams’ smile was so contagious on Saturday night that even notoriously straight faced fellow senior Zach Daugherty was grinning. The entire own of Huntington was beaming after the Vikings beat host Wayne High School, 52-40, for a Class 4A Sectional title.
It was Huntington North’s first Sectional title since 2001. It meant a lot to all of Huntington and that was very clear. A sea of red filled up one half of the gym at Wayne even 45 minutes before tipoff. The Viking fans showed up in overwhelming numbers to cheer the Vikings on towards another historic moment. They stayed boisterous from the opening tipoff through their uproarious praise of coach Craig Teagle as he cut down some final pieces of net post game.
Closing out a week where the meaning of “Hoosier Hysteria” in 2019 has been hotly debated on social media and in news articles in the area, there was no doubt that Huntington, Indiana was all about the frenzy.
“We really appreciate the community coming out and the community coming together. The support is unreal,” Daugherty said.
“This is just awesome to see it come true. All of these fans out here, they have been waiting for this for a really long time. It is just awesome to deliver it,” Williams beamed. “It is everything. The student section, they came out hot. All of the fans. I can’t describe it.”
For Teagle, the moments after the game were about looking back at the past four years since he took over the program. His teams have won 16, 17, 19 and now 22 games during that time. He started at Huntington North, after winning five Sectionals at Jay County, with this year’s senior class.
“This was kind of our vision and goal. We knew it would take a little bit of time for them to learn our system. Having great offensive possessions that mean getting the best pass each time down whether it is first pass or fifth pass or tenth pass,” Teagle said. “Those four years, having this senior group that we started with do it is unbelievable.”
Timon Kinnie and Williams exchanged three pointers to start the game before Darius Alexander gave Wayne a 5-2 lead two and a half minutes in. But as Wayne packed the middle to clog Huntington North’s hopes of getting the ball to Sawyer Stoltz and Hank Pulver consistently, the Vikings got hot and stayed hot from three point range. Once they pulled ahead 6-3, Huntington North would never trail again.
Wayne’s Craig Young tied the game at 12 with 5:20 left in the second quarter from the free throw line, before Daugherty hit the team’s fourth three pointer three minutes into the second quarter. Then the Vikings took to the inside, making headway on a Jordan Hollowell score and a Stoltz jump hook over Alexander that extended the Huntington North lead to 19-12.
Daugherty added another three pointer with 51.2 seconds left to open up a 23-12 halftime lead with five made three pointers for the team.
“Wayne is a really good team and they were getting into us. We were really fortunate that we were hitting some shot,” Daugherty said. “It is important to set the tempo, we want to go how we go, that is really important to us.”
Huntington North’s three point prowess only grew at the start of the third quarter. Williams buried three pointers on back to back trips from the left corner directly in front of the excited Viking student section. Cam Starks scored on a baseline runner in the closing seconds of the third quarter to give Wayne a little momentum back.
“The past two games, we haven’t really shot it well. But we came out hot tonight and it was good to see everyone contributing again,” Williams said.
In the fourth quarter, Wayne cut the deficit to four points three times, first off a Young and-one thirty seconds in as the General home student section loudly chanted “this is our house.” Huntington North’s Deven Newcomb pushed back with a shot from deep, but with 3:38 left, a Young three pointer again pulled Wayne back within four at 40-36.
In the end, the Vikings made big plays down the stretch. From a chase down defensive hustle play from Hollowell to crisp and intelligent ball movement, Huntington North stayed comfortable and composed as they closed out the game with a few quality trips to the free throw line.
“[Hollowell] was a role player all year, played an important part tonight because Hank was in foul trouble. The biggest play of the game, we turn it over here by the ten second line, looks like they are getting a drunk in transition, he runs the ball down, gets a steal and we have possession back,” Teagle said.
The events after the game were the usual for Sectional champions: net cutting, friend and family hugging, trophy showcasing and every picture under the sun. But things felt different as nearly every fan in red remained in the stands to bask in those moments as they unfolded, to embrace their sons and friends and give that rousing ovation as Teagle cut down a piece of net to signify his saving of the Viking program and his own 400th career victory.
The celebration lasted as long as it could for Huntington North; quite literally until they turned off the lights on them inside Wayne High School. The smiles though kept lighting up the gymnasium and likely the entire trip back to Huntington where the team celebrated with an impromptu pep session in their old fieldhouse.
“We’ve been preparing for this all year, for the last four years,” Daugherty said with delight in his eyes. “To finally get one, it feels good.”
“The community was starving for another championship,” Teagle said. “We are happy to bring it home to them because they deserve it. The Sectional felt like it was a home game all three games for us. It seemed like every time we got flat or the other team made a run, our crowd got behind us. A lot of this is for them too.”
Young had a game high 14 points for the Generals. Daugherty led Huntington North with 13 points while Williams and Hollowell each scored 12 points and Stoltz had 11 points and a team high seven rebounds. Huntington North shot 8 of 13 from three point range and 17 of 22 from the free throw line.