The 3+ hour drive to Traverse City St. Francis for their Christmas tournament, the longest trip of the year for the Vikings, was the least of Northern’s worries this week. Their collective hearts were heavy due to one player’s loss of his father on Monday. The basketball court is fortunately a place of refuge for many players and served this time as just that — a place to forget about everything going on outside the court and focus squarely on the games.
The first night featured the Vikings against the host St. Francis Gladiators (ranked #8 in class C at the time) and their coach, former Flint Central czar, Dave Ginsberg. The Glads featured the trio of brothers Ian and Sean Sheldon and Michigan State football signee, Max Bullough. In fact, Bullough had to beg his coach to play as he is slated to graduate early and start courses at State in January.
That trio proved to be no match for Northern’s team, as they jumped out to a 20-3 first quarter lead. The rest of the game proved to be much similar and not much of a contest as the Vikings cruised to a 63-33 win behind 13 points from Aundre Gibson, 12 from Shaquille Smith and Gerald Williams-Taylor, and 10 from Dalvin David.
The next day’s contest pitted Northern against the Traverse City Central Trojans. Not surprisingly, Northern came out overconfident in the game and led by only 11 at half time to a team that shouldn’t have even been close. In what can only be described as one of the ugliest games I have ever seen (more later), Northern escaped with a 77-62 victory. Leading the Vikings was Smith with 19, and Williams-Taylor and David with 16 a piece.
– Also in attendance at the tournament was 13th-ranked (class A) Warren De LaSalle, who also went 2-for-2 against the Traverse City teams.
– Speaking of De LaSalle, somehow junior Brian Mitzner was named the tournament’s MVP after his 10 point performance in the second game. I think Smith and Williams-Taylor had serious arguments there, considered Williams-Taylor averaged seven rebounds, five steals, and three assists for the tourney, while Smith put in four assists, three steals, and was a one-man press breaker in both games. But, maybe it was because the team bus left before the last game was complete or something.
– Largely going unnoticed was the play of David in the two games. He is swiftly becoming a consistent force for the Vikings, getting all the little garbage that is left in the paint for him to gather. His 13 point, seven rebound average in the games was a blessing for Northern.
– Sophomore Sean Sheldon (St. Francis) has a load of potential and it is clear why he is highly regarded already amongst MAC schools.
– The Northern-Central game featured a whopping 70+ free throws between the two teams, with Northern shooting 50 of them! What in the world were the officials thinking? Clearly they have not officiated a class A game before with those type of athletes. It was ridiculous and made for a terribly long and boring contest. One Central player fouled out in the 3rd quarter and just about 2/3 of Northern’s team had 3 fouls at that same point in the game. Not pretty.
– Bullough is slated to start at linebacker for the Spartans next year. At 6’4″, 240 lbs., and all muscle, I can see why.
– All in all, St. Francis did a great job of hosting the tournament and Traverse City is a beautiful city, even in the snow. The grand Traverse Resort, where they put the teams up in, was immaculate as well.
– Marcellus Miller