BY CHAD DARE
In the first game on Saturday, the Danville Vikings did everything their coaches wanted them to do with one exception.
The host Lincoln Railers claimed a 53-52 victory in triple overtime on basket with 18 seconds left by Edward Bowlby.
Danville senior Steven Williams missed a 3-pointer and Denzel Smith got the offensive rebound but his shot was off the mark.
“I guess that’s what it feels like to have a loss like that,’’ said a very frustrated Houpt. “I’m sure someone will tell that you will get used to it. First off, I hope I don’t. Secondly, it doesn’t do me any good right now. Because, when kids fight like that, battle and do all the things you ask of them and you can’t get over the hump, it’s frustrating.
“I know there are some silver linings, but sometimes, you just want the W — the win.’’
The Vikings had plenty of opportunities starting with an 8-point lead (39-31) early in the fourth quarter.
“We had a couple of turnovers,’’ Houpt said. “They hit a couple of big shots, a few calls and with a little flurry, it disappeared.’’
Lincoln went on a 12-3 run, taking a 43-42 lead with 2:05 left. But Danville came back with a 3-pointer from Marcus Merriweather, who finished with 13 points, to take a 45-43 lead.
The Railers tied the game on a basket by Gavin Block. Merriweather had a shot to win it for Danville at end of regulation, but his 3-point attempt was a little too long.
And that wasn’t even Danville’s best chance for its first win.
Denzel Smith, who had a team-high 15 points, buried a 3-pointer from the left baseline with :07 left in the first overtime, giving the Vikings a 51-48 lead.
Lincoln raced the ball up court and Max Cook, who also had a team-high 15 points, hit a 3-pointer from about 35 feet at the buzzer to send the game into a second overtime.
“We had chances in the next two overtimes,’’ Houpt said. “That’s the one shot that will stand out. I’ve watched a lot of games on TV and you yell foul in that situation. I’m sitting there thinking we should foul before they get a 3-pointer off, but I decided what are the odds as the clock was ticking down, it seemed less likely they would get a good shot.
“It was a buzzer beater, but it wasn’t a lucky shot. It was jump shot and the kid had his legs under him.’’
In the next overtime session, Danville won the tip and held the ball for more than 3 minutes as Lincoln say in its traditional 3-2 zone.
The Vikings eventually committed their 13th turnover, but Cook missed a 3 at the buzzer for the Railsplitters sending the game into a third overtime.
In that final extra period, Danville took a 52-51 lead when Smith made 1-of-2 free throws, but Bowlby got behind the Viking defense for an easy basket to give Lincoln the victory.
“They did all the right things. We are no more deserving than Lincoln, but just as deserving,’’ Houpt said. “They made some big shots and so did we. They made the last one. It’s frustrating. It’s painful. I’m not at a loss for words very often, but not much to say.
“Our kids logged some heavy minutes and they stayed true to our defensive principles that we have. We don’t have anything to be ashamed about as far as our approach, our effort or our discipline.’’
Houpt said he hopes that his team’s effort on Saturday morning is a sign of things to come for his program.