FAIRFIELD — As wins go it was big, the first in a Solano County Athletic Conference opener for the Vanden HIgh boys basketball team in four years.
But it still left Vikings coach Micheal Holloway scratching his head.
Vanden scored the first nine points and never let Benicia get closer than two (11-9) just once the rest of the way, but the Vikings never really put the Panthers away until the closing seconds in a 68-56 victory at Jim Boyd Gym, Thursday.
“We’re still trying to open games up,” Holloway said. “We’re still trying to figure out how to put people away.”
Tony Terry’s inside basket gave Vanden (9-7) a 9-0 lead as Benicia (3-12) missed its first eight shots. However, the Panthers made four straight baskets to let the home team know a there would be a game.
After leading 15-11 after the first quarter, the Vikings scored the first nine points of the second only to see Benicia outscore them 17-8 the rest of the period to make it 32-28 at the half.
“Every game is like this,” Holloway said. “We go on a huge run and let them back in. It happened against Wood (a 51-49 win on Friday), it happened against Stagg (a 56-53 win on Saturday). It’s happened six or seven times.”
The scene nearly repeated in the third quarter as Vanden opened with a 10-1 run, only to see Benicia counter with a 7-0 run of its own to make it 42-36.
DeMarre Walker made sure the Vikings had a bigger cushion at the end of the quarter, however, scoring five of his team’s final six points, including a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to make it 48-39 entering the fourth quarter.
The junior guard had 11 of his game-high 22 points in the third period.
For a change, Vanden didn’t go a big run to open the final 8 minutes, but neither did Benicia. Midway through the quarter the Vikings used an 8-0 surge to take their biggest lead at 58-43.
Seven straight points by the Panthers – helped in great part by 3 for 15 shooting from the line – cut the visitors’ deficit to 58-50 and they got within eight twice more, the last time at 64-56 after a 3-pointer by James Hyde with 1:02 remaining.
Two free throws by Jihad Woods, who finished with 18 points, and a layup by Thomas Avent, who netted nine points, sealed the victory.
Rashad Fisher added seven for the Vikings.
Dakarai Hughes led Benicia with 10 points, while Derek Johnstone and Brandon Barrett had nine and Hyde seven.
Benicia won the JV game 65-51 with Anthony Anchante leading the Vikings (3-12) with 14 points, while Jordan Williams had 13 and Xavier Hernandez 10, the latter nailing a half-court buzzer beater at the end of the game.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.