BETHESDA — Early in the season, the Whitman Vikings boys’ basketball team lost their first three games, but they have shown significant improvement since.
Friday night was no different, as they hosted the Churchill Bulldogs and defeated them, 59-45, behind two impressive performances from seniors Jason Lewis and Brendan Shaver.
From start to finish, Whitman was able to take care of business as they jumped out to an 18-8 lead midway through the first quarter, thanks to key turnovers and a few three-pointers from Lewis. However, the Bulldogs were able to cut the deficit to 18-15 by the end of the quarter.
The Vikings kept the momentum going their way as Shaver dominated the second quarter, dropping nine points and going 3-for-4 at the free throw line. Junior Josh Weinberg also went 3-for-4 in free throws in the quarter.
Lewis and Shaver finished the half with 13 points each, as Whitman led Churchill 36-26 at halftime.
The third quarter was a very-low-scoring one for the Vikings, as they only registered seven points, while the Bulldogs had eight. Nonetheless, the home team still led 43-34 at the end of the third.
Whitman got their groove back in the fourth with 16 total points, including six from Lewis on two three-pointers. Shaver, Weinberg, juniors Kai Halloway and Jaden Pierce, and senior Rodrigo Ruiz also contributed, with two points each.
“I think this was a big game for us,” said Vikings Head Coach Chris Lun. “We hit some bumps throughout the beginning part of our season. We scheduled some really tough games, and hopefully it prepares us for our conference games.”
Lun also stated that shots made the difference for his squad Friday night.
“The big difference was for us tonight that we came out of the gate hitting shots,” he said. “We’ve really struggled throughout the first part of the season. Tonight it was just nice to see the ball go into the basket. It raises our energy level up, and it just makes the game so much easier when the ball goes in.”
Of course, Lewis was the MVP of the night, as he registered 23 points, while Shaver put up the team’s second-most points with 15. Lewis was even more impressive from behind the arc as he nailed six three-pointers.
“He was the one,” Lun said about Lewis. “He struggled a bit this year. He’ll be the first person to tell you. But he’s shooting in the mid-20s, I think. We know he’s a 40 percent three-point shooter, so hopefully this is going to get involved in the second part of the season.”
Lun also offered praise for Shaver. “Brendan’s had a really good year for us,” he said. “He’s good with the ball, he’s strong and he’s getting better and better.”
Despite the loss, Churchill had a couple of double-digit performances from Kaden Richardson and Michael Janis. Richardson finished the night with 11 points, while Janis put up 10.
“Those are guys that obviously role players off the bench,” said Bulldogs Head Coach Dave Blumenthal. “They’re vital pieces to the puzzle. They bring grit, toughness, IQ, everything on the defensive end you need, and they’re good team players.”
Whitman improved to 6-5 on the season, while Churchill fell to 6-4.