VALPARAISO — Pitchers and catchers haven't reported to baseball spring training quite yet, but it wasn't too soon to start talking about shutouts Tuesday at Viking Gym.
Times No. 2 Valparaiso blanked Michigan City in the third quarter of the Duneland Athletic Conference game, turning a nine-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead.
"I don't know if I've ever had a team hold a team scoreless in a quarter, but my first year, I know we didn't score in a quarter," Vikings coach Barak Coolman said. "At halftime, we had to get refocused. Defense was the determining factor. We just played good man to man and switched up a couple assignments. Guys stepped up and played with confidence. Part of it is the guys are getting more confident in understanding that it's a 32-minute game."
The Vikings (13-4, 5-0) pulled away in the fourth quarter, completing a 40-15 turnaround to post a 60-44 victory that keeps them alone atop the DAC standings.
"I don't recall ever having a team shut out in a quarter," Wolves coach John Boyd said. "That had a lot to do with Valpo. They were asleep in the first half and we woke up a sleeping giant. We woke up the best kid in the conference (Brandon Newman). We had no movement. We were lethargic. Our energy was sapped. It didn't matter how many timeouts I called. They had the momentum and we couldn't get anything going."
Valpo trailed 29-20 at the break, but quickly flipped the game script afterward. Two Nate Aerts hoops and a Charlie Healy trey promptly cut the margin to two. At the other end, Healy was tasked with defending Michigan City sophomore Daijon Reddix, whose 13-points fueled the Wolves in the first half.
"Coach just told me, to guard him, don't let him catch the ball," Healy said. "It was just playing together more, talking on defense, helping out. We're trying to fix the slow start, but we're never going to quit, no matter what the score is. We know we can always come back. We didn't panic."
Newman's and-one off a steal put the Vikes up 30-29 as foul trouble mounted for City (9-12, 3-2). The Vikings capped the period with Noah Comstock zipping a pass underneath to Jake Evans for a layup.
"Once the momentum turned, we played really well with the lead down the stretch," Coolman said. "The tjhird quarter was a bad quarter our first eight games. You never know what's going to happen in teenage minds."
M.C. didn't score its first points of the second half until Jaivion Reid free throws at 7:42 of the fourth and its first basket of the half finally came via a Daijon Reddix triple at 5:36.
"Everybody makes a run," Boyd said. "They just happened to make a run that was outstanding. When you have somebody down, you have to keep them there and you do that by executing.
At the outset, Valpo jumped in front 6-0 on 3s by Aerts and Newman. It led 10-4 after a pair of inside hoops by Aerts, but struggled offensively the rest of the half as City picked up its pressure.
Reddix drilled a pair of deep 3s in a 10-0 run to push City in front and it took the margin to nine at the half.
"Michigan City played really well in the first half," Coolman said. "We settled for too many 3s. We were letting their pressure dictate things."
Newman warmed up in the second half with 16 of his 21 points, capping his night with a dunk. He also snagged eight boards. Aerts scored 18 and Healy 14. Colin Walls delivered six assists.
"The big thing is trying to let the game come to him," Coolman said of Newman. "They really hounded him all over the court. He had to let his teammates shine. There's a fine line in being passively aggressive. We want him to let the game come to him, but still be the man and he did that to finish the game. Charlie was great defending (Reddix). He's starting to get healthy. He's getting back to doing what we expected him to do."
Healy missed several games early in the season with a strained ligament in his shooting hand sustained in football.
"My hand is feeling a lot better," he said. "I'm getting more confidence in my shot."
Reddix had 18 points with four triples to top the Wolves, who had no one else in double figures. Rayshon Howard had seven rebounds and Will Hanyard five assists.
"We've got to teach them how to win, show them what it takes to be a winner," Boyd said. "You never lose. You just learn. This is just something we have to learn from."