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Morning Sun
  • Vikings to take on Marmaton Valley

  • The Northeast Viking boys won their first Three Rivers League basketball title, third in school history (following Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League crowns in 1974 and 2001), and earned the No. 2 seed in a Class 2A substate hosted by TRL rival Uniontown next week after teams play their opening round games.

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  • The Northeast Viking boys won their first Three Rivers League basketball title, third in school history (following Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League crowns in 1974 and 2001), and earned the No. 2 seed in a Class 2A substate hosted by TRL rival Uniontown next week after teams play their opening round games.
    “It’s been a great year,” Northeast head coach Matt Hiatt said. “Any time you can win a league championship, that’s a good year but hopefully we’ve got a chance for the league championship to not be the highlight of our year.”
    Northeast (16-4 overall, 9-0 TRL) opens at home against Marmaton Valley (7-13) on Tuesday night. The Vikings beat the Wildcats 38-37 in the early-December Marmaton Valley Tournament and won the official TRL game against Marmaton Valley by the final score of 54-23.
    “They’re very scrappy and we got them good here a few weeks ago but their best player was hurt,” Hiatt said. “The Becker (Cole Becker) kid was hurt and he’s the one that makes them go. We know that they’re going to be much-improved when we see them this time from what we saw a few weeks ago. I’ve been preaching to our kids that we’ve got to be ready and respect them. Everybody’s 0-0 at this time of the year and it’s not about the best team, it’s about who plays best.”
    Becker played in the first Northeast-Marmaton Valley contest.
    Coming into the season, Hiatt said that his role players would make the difference in Northeast success or failure, players who complement senior forward Chase Cleland and make Cleland even better as a player.
    “Cole Robinson doesn’t do a whole lot of things that show up on the stat sheet but he does a lot of things that help us win ballgames,” Hiatt said. “Same way with Noah Popejoy and Cody McCloud, those kids just go out and play hard every night and do the little things for us that make us successful.”
    Four key seniors Cleland, McCloud, Robinson and Jon Baker have formed a solid bond with sophomore J.T. Richardson, sophomore Popejoy, freshmen guards Seth Chandler and Antonio Slingluff and the rest of the Vikings.
    “It’s been phenomenal,” Cleland said. “Going from last year, improving our record, we’ve got a great group of guys that come out, work hard every day, get ourselves better and put ourselves in a position to win every game.”
    “Ah man, this year’s been great,” Robinson said. “Personally, I think this is our best group of guys we’ve had so far in my high school career. I couldn’t ask for any more as a senior.”
    “We knew all along that we’d have a chance,” Hiatt said, “if we could put things together and we could get everybody playing together and get our minds right. I realized that probably after we beat Liberal to go 5-0 before Christmas, that’s when it set in for me that we’re going to have a chance to have a special season here.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Northeast won tough road games against Crest and Oswego, seemingly two contenders for the Three Rivers League crown every year.
    “Beating Crest was a big confidence-booster for our kids and that game right there is what propelled us to go undefeated in league,” Hiatt said. “Our kids realized that if we can beat Crest, then we can beat everybody else. I think we’ve been a different team since then.”
    “That was a big kicker,” Cleland said of beating Crest. “If we could beat them, there’s nothing in our way. That’s how we looked at it.”
    Northeast played three important home games this season — Pleasanton on Fight for Dylan Night, Uniontown to decide the league title on Homecoming and Altoona-Midway to finish league play undefeated on Senior Night.
    Cleland looked back into his childhood to remember a similar time when the Vikings drew big, festive crowds at home.
    “It was packed, beyond packed,” Cleland said. “I haven’t seen it that packed since 2001 when they won the league championship and there was standing-room only back then. It was nice to have that atmosphere and we kind of felt that atmosphere on those three nights.”
    “People around the community are talking about the team, not only about how they’re winning but how much they enjoy watching the kids play because they play hard and they play together,” Hiatt said. “On Homecoming night against Uniontown, there were more people here than I’ve seen in the nine years I’ve been here. We’ve had pretty good teams over that time span, but I think the community’s definitely proud of the kids.”
    Hiatt mentioned an increased confidence in the Vikings and Cleland expressed that confidence during his interview Friday afternoon in the high school gym.
    “We’re not done here,” he said. “We’ve got two more weeks of basketball left in us.”
    Northeast and Uniontown (15-5) are on the bottom of the substate bracket with Madison/Hamilton (17-3) and Sedan (14-6) on top.
    “I know they’re three good teams,” Hiatt said. “I’ve seen Uniontown in person, I’ve seen Sedan in person and I’ve seen film on Madison. Looking at it, I think the top four teams (including Northeast) are close and another team to watch is Oswego. They’re playing well right now and they’re the five seed. They’re a team that could definitely make some noise that nobody’s looking at.”
    Uniontown hosts West Elk (8-13), Madison/Hamilton hosts Yates Center (1-19) and Sedan hosts Oswego (9-11). Madison/Hamilton plays a boys and girls doubleheader with Yates Center on Monday night.
    Note: The Sports Desk reported earlier this week that Northeast won its third league title since joining the Three Rivers League. That was incorrect, since Northeast won a league cross country title in the fall. The Vikings have won league titles in volleyball (2010), baseball (2011), cross country (2011) and boys basketball (2012) since joining the Three Rivers League.
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