By VAN HOLLAND
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
ROBERSONVILLE – Tarboro Vikings first-year coach Reggie Bess has seen his team struggle all season, because it took them eight games before getting into the win column.
He challenged his team before they opened up Two Rivers Conference action Friday night against the South Creek Cougars. He told his team before the game, that he wanted them to start putting the pieces to the puzzle together and show opponents what type of team they were.
It took them nearly two quarters to do that and step-up to the challenge, but when they adjusted in the final three minutes of the first half, Tarboro looked like a completely different team and cruised from that point to a 77-52 win. The win is their second straight.
"We had a heart to heart talk before the game today and ironed out some wrinkles and I was glad to see them respond like they did," Bess said. "I told them we were undefeated in the new year and I wanted to keep it that way. I think we played well on both ends of the floor."
Senior guard Maliek Hudson led the way as he has all season with 16 points, while senior Tobias Pittman came off the bench and gave them a spark adding 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Senior big-man, Keitheon Battle, was a big factor inside. He scored eight points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a shot. He also added a dunk in the third quarter when Hudson missed a floater in the lane and Battle snatched the ball out of the air and slammed it home with two hands.
"Hands down to Keitheon because he has made a lot of improvements and worked hard over the summer to get better and it is finally showing now," Bess said. "Tonight he made a big difference inside and played a heck of a game for us. He was big on both ends of the floor."
Tarboro played from behind the first 12 plus minutes. Then with 3:55 left in the first half, they exploded on the offensive end of the floor. They closed out the frame on a 13-2 run to take a 30-29 lead at halftime. Hudson added seven during that run and Markese Clapp added four.
"We have to get these guys consistent," Bess said. "We played together in the final part of the first half and made that big run. That shows we can do it."
In the third, Tarboro picked right up where they left off. They opened on a 15-2 run to start the third and forced South Creek to call a timeout.
"We played liked I had hoped we would all season and we started the third quarter like we finished the first half, on a run," Bess said. "We're starting to gel and I think it is something that will be a new start for us."
The Vikings turned the ball over just 18 times and forced South Creek to turn it over 26 times, which Tarboro took advantage of and scored 14 points off the Cougars miscues.
The Vikings were 5 for 14 (35 percent) from the free throw line.
Lady Vikings 52 Lady Cougars 42
In girl's action, Lady Vikings coach Jamie WIlloughby saw her team let a 23 point halftime lead slip away and get cut to six points midway through the fourth quarter. But Tarboro regrouped found a way to stay composed during the South Creek run and defeated the Lady Cougars 52-42.
A'Jah Williams was instrumental for the Lady Vikings. She scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Williams was hot from the beginning when she scored 10 of the Lady Vikings 25 points in the first quarter. She added five more in the second and then she cooled down, because she didn't score another basket until the 42 second mark of the third.
In the third quarter, the entire Tarboro team went cold. They scored just four points in the quarter and the first points of the quarter came with 1:52 left in the frame.
The Lady Vikings were able to score 22 points off of South Creek mistakes which gave them an edge, but Tarboro on the other hand turned the ball over 21 times themselves.
They shot 12 for 20 (60 percent) from the free throw line and missed numerous lay-ups in the second half.
Tarboro is back in action Tuesday when they host Riverside-Martin in Two Rivers Conference action.