MOSES LAKE — Big Bend men’s basketball picked up the double-digit win over Columbia Basin on Wednesday night at home, 75-64, to pick up their first conference win of the season.
The Runnin’ Vikes got out to an early start, scoring the first five of the game. Big Bend held a 10-2 lead when Denis Ulyanchuk went down under the basket in the first half. The Viking big man wouldn’t return to the game.
Big Bend rallied after its teammate went down, stretching the lead to double-digits, where it would stay for the rest of the half. The Runnin’ Vikes went in to the locker room with a 15-point edge at 37-22.
The Runnin’ Vikes were able to keep the Hawks at a distance for most of the opening ten minutes of the second half, leading 50-35 at the 10-minute mark. Columbia Basin rallied late, however, trimming the lead to single digits at 59-50 with 5:19 to play.
The visiting Hawks came within as close as six points, at 60-54 with three minutes left, before the Runnin’ Vikes were able to pull away in the final minutes. Stretching the lead back to double digits, the Runnin’ Vikes move to 1-2 in conference play, snapping a three-game skid coming in.
Jahvontae’ Jones led Big bend in scoring with 22, chipping in three steals and rebounds as well. Guard Jaden Brown finished with 19 in addition to a team-high six assists to go with six boards. Payton Nielsen grabbed the double-double in the win, finishing with 10 points and 19 rebounds.
Runnin’ Vikes head coach Mingo Scott said it didn’t look good for his big man after he went down in the first half and fears he may miss significant time.
“I just feel so bad for him,” Scott said. “The guys rallied around that, they wanted to win the game for him because he’s meant so much to the team.”
The Big Bend head coach said, even though his team was able to maintain a lead, turnovers were a real issue Scott said they’re lucky the Hawks didn’t capitalize.
“We won, but we definitely have to play better than that,” Scott said.
Forward Landon Harrington played strong minutes in Ulyanchuk’s absence for the Runnin’ Vikes, Scott said, before the Hawks switched to four-guard rotation. Scott said he expects Harrington to fill in the starting spot if his sophomore forward misses time.
If the Big Bend leading rebounder is forced to miss time, Scott said he told his team it can’t be “one guy that can step up and fill in his shoes.”
“If we’re gonna be successful, everyone’s gonna have to pick up their game and be a little more effort on the glass or we’re just really gonna feel that every game,” Scott said.
Next up, Big Bend will hit the road this weekend as they head off to face Yakima Valley on Saturday, Jan. 11, at 4 p.m.