LANSING | If you were at the Ridgewood-Illiana Christian boys basketball game Friday night, you saw a pretty good Illiana Christian team for 2 1/2 quarters.
The Vikings hustled, played hard and held their own against a tough Rebels team. In fact, the Vikings even led 34-32 with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left.
Then things fell apart -- turnovers, missed shots and Ridgewood playing a good game.
Illiana Christian needed to make a stop or hit a shot in a 3-minute span in which it went scoreless but didn't. That was the game, and that has been the story in the four losses the Vikings have suffered.
The Vikings started the season 4-0, winning the Seneca Thanksgiving Tournament. That was also their last win. December has not been a good month for them.
"We need to play a full four quarters, and, until we do, we will struggle," Vikings coach Tom Roozeboom said. "It's always one stretch where we have a mental lapse, make mistakes, and that is the ball game."
Glenbard South comes to town Tuesday, and that will be another tough one.
When you lose like Illiana has, it's easy to start pressing, doubting yourself and trying to do too much. Sometimes that only makes things worse. Illiana needs its seniors to step up and make sure the team gets on the right track.
It might be as simple as just relaxing and making sure the younger kids are at ease but focused enough to get the job done. Maybe it's stepping up and making a shot or coming up with a steal to ignite a rally.
Illiana is not a bad team. It's not a great team and cannot take a quarter off. It has, and it has showed in the last four games. That is not to say that there are not leaders on this team. This is a solid group that is willing to work hard, but the Vikings have just come up short recently. They didn't start out 4-0 by accident.
"We do need some seniors to step up," senior Joel Ooms said. "We just have to get it together.
One big run is all it will take, and the players will realize they can get it together. Even when they were down double digits Friday, the Vikings still battled, but when they cut the deficit to eight points at 60-52, they let Ridgewood run away, thus making the 71-54 final score look more lopsided than it was.
Illiana is a fun team to watch, and when they are at home and playing well, they can be a force. The Vikings' gym is a tremendous home-court advantage with a wild student section and a loud pep band.
It's early, but it's time for some leadership.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.