LANSING | Connecting on four field goals in the fourth quarter isn’t usually a recipe for success, but for Illiana Christian it was exactly what it needed for a 67-57 upset of Oak Forest on Tuesday.
The Vikings came out strong, holding the Bengals to just 16 first-half points and held a 15-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
However Oak Forest wasn’t ready to just give the Vikings (8-7) the win and used a 13-2 run to get back into the game.
After watching their 18-point, fourth-quarter lead trimmed to 53-47 with 1:57 to play, it would have been easy for the Vikings to fold.
Instead they stepped up and hit 12-of-15 free-throw attempts down the stretch to ice the game and pick up their first home win of the season over the Bengals (14-3).
“We stepped up against a good team tonight and got a monkey off our backs,” Illiana Christian coach Thomas Roozeboom said. “We’ve given up some leads this year and I told the guys they (Oak Forest) would be aggressive in the fourth and to look for good shots or to get to the line.”
That’s exactly what Illiana Christian did, spreading the floor and forcing the Bengals to chase them as they worked the ball around the perimeter.
With time winding down, the Bengals only hope was to foul and the Vikings made them pay for each one. Sophomore guard Matthew Zandstra hit 6-of-7 attempts in the final minute to put the game away.
“I didn’t feel much pressure. I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve practiced a lot of free-throws over the years,” Zandstra said. “I’m just glad I made them. We’ve been in this position late in the game before with the lead dropping and didn’t finish. It felt good to step up and finish the game tonight.”
However, as good as their foul shooting was, their defense on the Bengals 6-foot-8 center Kyle Flanagan was more impressive, holding him to just three field goals.
“We’d seen them play and we knew the key was to control their big man,” Roozeboom said. “We did a good job of fronting him and taking away the back side. We made them force some shots and got a lot of key rebounds.”
Offensively the Vikings did a good job of beating the press and finding the open man all night. Caleb Jonkman led four Vikings in double figures with a team high 21 points.