WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams Vikings (6-7) lost two of their three regular season basketball games last week.
The varsity basketball squad started the week strong with an easy 72-57 home win over the visiting Red Rock Scorpions (3-14) from Sedona on Jan. 15. They then followed that game with two straight losses.
The Vikings lost 68-44 at the River Valley Dust Devils (10-8) in Mohave Valley, Ariz. on Jan. 17. The next day the Vikings returned home only to get routed by the visiting Grand Canyon Phantoms (11-3) 78-44 on Jan. 18.
Against Red Rock, the Vikings and Scorpions started the game looking like two evenly matched teams. But with the score tied at 22 in the second quarter, Williams went on a 10-0 scoring run and never looked back. The Vikings held a double-digit lead the rest of the game.
"Good start to the New Year, the ball handling has been exceptional," said Vikings head basketball coach Red McFerren after the Red Rock game, their third win in their first four games of 2013. "It's excellent to have Italy back, he's a great ball handler in addition to being a great scorer."
Senior swingman Alessandro Fadda is the player known as "Italy." He missed four weeks because of an ankle injury and returned to the Vikings lineup Jan. 7.
"We don't have the turnovers we used to have, and that obviously makes a big difference. If we get more possessions, we get more shots," McFerren said, estimating his team was averaging 25 or more turnovers a game. "Having Italy back makes me look better than I am."
Against Red Rock the Vikings had less than 15 turnovers for the game.
McFerren said that having Fadda back adds another ball handler, scorer, and playmaker to the roster, taking pressure off of forwards Jeff Brownlee and Joaquin Salaz. Guards Colton Grantham, Julian Zamorano, and Alejandro Caballero can also feel relieved with another ball handler to help them bring the ball up and execute on fast breaks and in transition.
"When Italy has the ball he makes everybody better, because he's a great passer too," said McFerren. "Sometimes too good, some guys aren't always ready for it even if he makes a beautiful pass."
McFerren added the team effort has been a great to start the New Year. All the players are getting their teammates involved, Salaz is playing under control, and Brownlee is picking his shots better instead of forcing them.
However, the team seems to have taken a step back with two straight losses to River Valley and Grand Canyon.
The Vikings only put up 44 points in both losses and could not get anything going seemingly at any point in either game. In both games the Vikings saw themselves down double digits rather quickly and just could not claw their way back into either matchup.
Offensively, they weren't hitting their shots and turned the ball over way too much, allowing easy buckets for their opponents. Defensively, they weren't communicating or helping each other and couldn't stop penetration or close out on shooters.
The Williams-Grand Canyon News went to print before the Vikings played host to the Ash Fork Spartans on Tuesday night.
Next up for the Vikes are back-to-back road trips to Flagstaff on Thursday to take on the Northland Preparatory Academy Spartans at 7 p.m. and to Chino Valley on Friday to take on the Chino Valley Cougars at 7 p.m.
The Williams Lady Vikings (6-15) lost all three of their basketball games last week, extending their current losing streak to five.
The Lady Vikes were outmatched against the Red Rock Lady Scorpions (9-7) at home on Jan. 15, losing 49-19. On the road Jan. 17 against the River Valley Dust Devils (7-10), the Lady Vikings lost 45-22. Williams returned home Jan. 18 to play host to the Grand Canyon Lady Phantoms (8-7), losing 38-24.
"We continue to miss some early shots and we don't shoot well from the outside," said Phillip Echeverria, Lady Vikings head basketball coach. "Then missing free throws puts us in a bind, it allows us to fall behind and makes it hard to recover. We're not good shooters, but we also miss too many close ones."
Against Red Rock, Williams went 6-for-16 from the free throw line and finished with 35 turnovers for the game, 26 in the first half alone.
"Losing that many possessions, we're not going to be able to play with anybody," Echeverria said. "You have to give kudos to Sedona though, they have a good ball club and their press really hurt us."
Echeverria estimates the Lady Vikings shoot between 15-20 percent during their games, which also greatly hurts their chances at staying competitive.
"I tell the girls that we're beating ourselves, we help the other team out too much," said Echeverria. "We get rushed, get nervous, and just throw the ball anywhere."
Echeverria still holds out hope that his girls can come together the last few games of the regular season and win a couple of them to qualify for the sectional tournament, which would at least give them a chance to make the state tournament. But he admits they have their work cut out for them.
In the junior varsity game against Red Rock, the Lady Vikings eked out a nail-biter 37-35 in the waning seconds of the game. Freshman Tryia Harvey hit what turned out to be the game-winning shot with 10 seconds left in the game to put Williams up by two points. The Lady Vikes held on defensively and stopped the Lady Scorpions to secure the victory.
"Gabi [Giunta] and Tryia definitely play stronger than freshmen," Echeverria said. "So we have things to look forward to in the future."
Against River Valley and Grand Canyon, the Williams Lady Vikings fell down early again because of turnovers and missed field goals, and could never fully recover.
The Williams-Grand Canyon News went to print before the Lady Vikes played host to the Ash Fork Lady Spartans (1-15) on Tuesday night.
Up next for the Lady Vikings are two straight road games against the Northland Preparatory Academy Spartans in Flagstaff on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and against the Chino Valley Lady Cougars on Friday at 5:30 p.m.