There have been moments of momentous achievement for the Barrie North Vikings. Unfortunately, there’s also been ones of pure frustration.
Such has been the nature for the developing senior boys team in the public school board’s triple-A loop.
“We’ve been hot and cold,” said Vikings coach Steve Porter. “Unfortunately, we’ve been inconsistent. We’ve beaten the teams we should have beaten, we beat Innisdale in a bit of a shocker because we decided to play well, but we lost to Eastview and Bradford, both in overtime, because we didn’t decide to play well.”
Things didn’t start out on the right foot for Barrie North this season, particularly because they couldn’t get a game in on the home hardwood until late November.
“The Collingwood game, for us, was our first game of the year,” Porter said. “We didn’t get a chance to get an exhibition game in because our gym floor was being renovated, so that pushed everything back. It is what it is, and you have to live with it, and we didn’t play very well and ended up losing by (18). I don’t think they’re that much better than we are, but we needed to play better.”
A hefty defeat at the hands of the top-seeded Orillia Nighthawks came shortly after.
While the Vikings would climb back to .500 with a pair of victories, their next two matchups would end in agonizing – and strikingly similar – fashion.
“In the Bradford game, we allowed the pressure of the game to get to us mentally and we threw the ball away three times in the last 30 seconds,” said Porter. “That allowed them to score late and they ended up winning in overtime by two.”
Just four days later, against Eastview, the Vikings took a lead late in the game and turned it over three consecutive times. Eastview hit a three-pointer with less than 15 seconds left to tie and force overtime.
“Because we had folded the tent in the last 30 seconds, the guys couldn’t get their chins off of their chests so Eastview handed it to us in overtime,” said Porter. “We were more than capable of beating them, but didn’t choose to do that.”
Handling the magnitude of the situation has been one of the biggest downfalls for Barrie North throughout this season.
“I don’t know if it’s inexperience or what, but maybe they haven’t been in enough games where they’ve performed well in that situation to feel confident or maybe it’s an issue where they’ve performed poorly in that situation enough times that it makes them feel anxious,” Porter said.
One issue that could potentially alleviate that concern for the Vikings moving forward would be how they hit the floor in training.
“The big problem I’ve run into over the years is convincing kids to practice at the same intensity that they’re going to play at,” Porter said. “When they do that, they get those necessary reps to be able to say, ‘I’ve been here and done that and don’t have to be anxious about that.’ But if you have a team that won’t practice at the same intensity as a game, then they get into a game and the intensity is more than they’re used to and that anxiety creeps in. That’s an issue for us, for sure.”
There were some positives with the team as they headed toward the playoffs, including an upset victory over Innisdale.
“We have a few guys that are having a hard time with their anger, but we’re getting better at that, learning to keep our composure in games,” Porter said. “We had a really hard time executing simple skills early in the season and we’ve gotten a lot better with that.”
But if this group is going to be able to rise to the occasion, in basketball or any other sport, then Porter suggests they put the past behind him.
“Stop worrying about what happened and worry about what’s coming up,” Porter said. “We have a tendency to allow our mistakes to come back to haunt us. If we play as a team and execute, we have a shot. When we don’t, we don’t make good decisions, and that’s when we run into problems.
Photo courtesy of Steve Porter