It seemed strange last weekend. Northeast, hosting powerhouse Boca Ciega, a team the Vikings took to overtime earlier in the year, trailed by just three at half time, when Boca Ciega came storming out of the locker room to start the second half.
All of a sudden, Vikings coach Dave Redding benched all of his starters. Soon, so too did Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman.
The varsity game turned into a game played with reserves. But there was no sinister plot, no pact with both coaches to pull their starters so quickly. "If there was [an agreement], none of us knew about it," Redding said.
But there was a method to the madness. Various local basketball coaches have groused that there are too many games in too short of a window, that the season should actually be longer. Because of the number of games in a short span, players, so the coaches say, are losing their legs. Coaches can't run crisp practices because the players would be physically shot.
With last week's games postponed due to Tuesday's storms, there was an inordinate number in a few days. In short, Redding said there were bigger fish to fry just around the corner.
"We didn't want to get into a running game with Boca Ciega," Redding said. "And to be honest, my players lost their composure. It became a running game and we weren't going to do that."
Not with district play coming next week. A loss, especially to a solid team like Boca Ciega, is really meaningless when the meaningful games, the games teams prepare the entire season for, begin next week.
If Northeast can't get to the district final, the season is over. The season was not over with a loss to Boca Ciega.
Star Vikings forward Andres Sanchez also dislocated a finger earlier in the week; the injury was bothering him in the Boca Ciega game, which also led Redding to sit his starters early.
"Had the game remained close, he would have stayed in the game," Redding said. "We just didn't execute the way we wanted to execute."