Erik Durham certainly didn’t have the look of a player lacking confidence. He had, after all, pumped in 10 points in the first half to help his Parkview Vikings keep pace with visiting Ozark.
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Yet it was a pep talk from coach Bill Brown that the senior wing credits with helping him pick it up in the second-half, as he finished the night with 24 points - including two free throws with .9 seconds to play - in a thrilling 51-50 win on Tuesday night.
And make it happen he did.
“I just tried to explain to him that he’s our man. He’s who we’re going to rely on to get us points and getting tips and steals. I thought that’s where he affected the game as much as anything," said Brown. "In the second half I put him in the lane to take away the diagonal pass. When we did that, the points didn’t come up quite as easy for (Ozark).”
But the Tigers had their offense working inside and out early in the second-half, as a 3-pointer by Korbin Evans and a pair of buckets in the lane by Brett Krisik pushed the Tigers’ lead to 42-32 with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
Then it was showtime for Durham. His jumper from the foul line sparked a 9-0 run that pulled the Vikings back into the game. A pair of A.J. Green free throws made it a 44-43 game, and another jumper by Durham - a fade away from the right elbow - gave Parkview its first lead of the night, 45-44 with 3:31 to play.
“We just knew we had to get back to playing our game,” said Green. “We had to play the type of defense we always play, run our offense that we know how to run, and keep our composure like we have in the past.”
Ozark took it right back, getting a bucket from Nick Cookinham and free throws by Jakob Neidig and Brett Krisik to rebuild their edge to 49-45 with just 1:01 on the clock.
Durham wasn’t done, though. He hit a free throw, then knocked down a 3-pointer right in front of the Parkview bench to make it a 50-49 game. Ozark missed a pair of free throws that could’ve iced the game, giving the Vikings the ball and a chance to win with 13 ticks remaining.
The ball ended up in Green’s hands, but his shot was blocked. Durham scooped up the loose ball and headed for the hoop, drawing a two-shot foul with :00.9 showing on the clock. Ozark used a timeout in an effort to ice him, but he drained both tries and a last-ditch heave by the Tigers was off the mark, securing the wild win for the Vikings.
“We gave our all, we didn’t quit, and I didn’t want it to be for nothing,” said Durham. “I wanted us to go out with the victory. It was real sweet.”
Durham finished with 24 points to lead all scorers, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Green chipped in 15 for the Vikings.
Ozark (4-4) had three players in double figures, paced by Krisik’s 17. Neidig added 14 - including three 3-pointers - while Korbin Evans pitched in 10.
“We played well, played hard, but made a few too many turnovers in the second half,” said Ozark coach Steve Hunter.
The visiting Tigers outshot Parkview (6-0) from the perimeter, holding a 6-2 advantage in makes from behind the arc. But the Vikings got to the line 13 times, hitting 10 of their free throws (77 percent). Ozark was just 6-for-12 (50 percent) from the stripe.
“If we make a few free throws at the end, they never get that shot (to win the game),” said Hunter.