NICKERSON — Coming off a KSHSAA Class 4A-Division 2 state quarterfinal appearance, returning again is on the to-do list for Smoky Valley.
But the list is longer now.
"Obviously we want to get to state, but I think we feel like a team where state is not necessarily the goal," said Smoky Valley junior Jacob Adams. "We want to win that first game and maybe keep going. It's the goal, but there's a bigger goal, I think."
To make any run, the Vikings must establish a reputation for winning in whatever style presents itself. Tuesday was a step toward that, as Smoky Valley (5-4) was dominant in and around the paint in a 54-42 victory at Nickerson (3-5).
The Vikings were 16-for-27 inside the 3-point line.
"This is a group of guys, we know we're going to shoot the 3. They love to shoot the 3," said Smoky Valley coach Doug Schneider. "We've been talking to them about the fact that over the course of our last three or four games, we've shot about 62, 63 percent inside the 3-point line. We're trying to convince them that yes, we're going to take some, but we need to get on the boards."
Despite the powerful punch inside, Smoky Valley's breakaway in the game was started by its lone 3-pointer. Nick Reinert buried three of his team-high 16 points to push the Vikings ahead 20-11.
That sprung the offense to life as part of a 12-0 surge that turned Smoky Valley's advantage up to 18.
The Vikings' defense was stout, too, holding the Panthers to 35 percent shooting in the first half on Smoky Valley's way to a 29-17 lead.
"They've always known they can play offense. They've always known they can score. That's never been a problem for us," Schneider said. "Don't get me wrong, there's some teams that make it really difficult for us, but we know we've got to become a stronger defensive team."
Smoky Valley continued to attack the paint in the third quarter. Brett Heitschmidt cashed in a baseline look and a mid-range jumper to bump the lead to 16 points out of the break.
The quarter ended with Adams connecting on a short buzzer beater that provided the Vikings with a 42-27 edge going to the fourth.
"Jacob just does such a nice job around the rim," Schneider said. "He really does a nice job of catching and finishing close to the rack."
Nickerson never chipped the deficit down to single digits in the second half.
Reinert's point production was boosted by drives inside that earned him trips to the charity stripe. He was 11-for-12
at the line. The 6-foot-4 Adams added 11 points and eight rebounds, while the 6-foot-2 Heitschmidt scored eight more.
Should the outside shot not fall come the postseason — Smoky Valley, typically potent from outside, was 1-for-9 against Nickerson — the Vikings know they have options.
"Anywhere we can get points is pretty awesome," Adams said. "I think we have a lot of kids who can score, so I don't really care where the points come from."
As for the girls, Smoky Valley sophomore Lindsey Gerlach connected on a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. That sparked a 10-0 run which would give Smoky Valley the lead for good, 32-27.
Jordon Otto provided eight points, seven rebounds and one steal for the Vikings. All eight of her points came in the second half.
"It was huge, because we needed that win to keep going with the season. It was getting a little rough throughout the games that we'd been losing. Just to get that win under our belt, we should be going confidently going into Friday.” Otto said.
The Vikings make the drive down to Kingman on Friday.