Don’t look now, but Niles North is on the move.
Even with much lower expectations, the Vikings are quietly putting together a very nice season, with their latest triumph a 44-40 win over New Trier to move to 19-7 on the season.
“We played them close in January so we knew we could compete with them,” said Niles North’s Aquan Smart. “We were’t our best selves earlier this season, but we’re playing at a high level now and I think we can build on this.”
New Trier were already without the services of 6’9″ Ciaran Brayboy who suffered a concussion in a game last week, and things weren’t made any easier for the Trevians when Sam Silverstein was lost for the rest of the game just minutes into the contest.
Silverstein had a layup attempt pinned to the backboard by Niles North’s Smart, and his momentum caused him to come down awkwardly on his wrist.
(Editors note: It has since been announced that Silverstein broke his wrist and will be out for the remainder of the season.)
“Even without Brayboy we know that brings another shooter and talented guard to the equation. New Trier is a great team, they have great players but they’re a great team,” said Niles North coach Glenn Olson. “This was such a crazy game and you feel for guys that were hurt, that’s a shame, but we’re optimistic moving forward.”
An undersized Niles North took advantage of the more favorable matchups and jumped out to a 8-2 lead behind Smart (nine points, five rebounds, five assists), who has taken over the reigns this season after the Vikings were hit hard by graduation.
“Aquan did a great job, we kinda put him and Elijah (Bull) on an island up top, and do your thing,” said Olson. “We didn’t have as much action from our lower tier players as we would have liked but Aquan was tremendous.”
Despite trailing early and without most of their reinforcements, New Trier get back into the contest behind senior Spencer Boehm.
Boehm, who often works the perimeter to compliment Brayboy did all of his damage in the post on this occasion, racking up 22 points and 10 rebounds while also forcing the Vikings into some foul trouble.
With Niles North struggling to score the basketball, they maintained the lead with some tough nosed defense, forcing New Trier’s guards into uncomfortable situations and constantly turning them over.
“We’re a scrappy team, super scrappy,” said Smart. “We’re not as big as last year’s team so everything is quick pace and just moving fast.”
Even with all of the injuries, New Trier kept the game close throughout the third quarter and to within one point in first possession of the fourth with a three pointer from Charles Sweat.
From that point on however, it was all Niles North. The Vikings proceeded to go on a 10-0 run that was largely sparked by Myles Davis, who picked New Trier off in the back court twice for breakaway layups.
Olson said: “He’s a senior and he wants to leave his mark and I respect that.”
New Trier did their best to pull off a late miracle, but Niles North’s lead was too much in the end and despite some poor ball control in the dying minutes, closed out the game somewhat comfortably to put them over .500 in the CSL South.
Both teams will travel up to Racine WI to play in the Battle of the Border shootout. Niles North will take on Madison La Follette, and New Trier will have Racine Case.