Vikings boys varsity hoop squad takes undefeated season in stride

Vale varsity basketball coach Colby Shira said he was happy his team ended its season undefeated but he said the Vikings have not met all of their goals going into the postseason. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).

VALE – Vale boys varsity basketball coach Colby Shira admits he didn’t see an undefeated season coming.

“I thought it was a good goal,” he said.

Shira’s reluctance to set his hopes on a perfect Eastern Oregon League mark was rooted in a realistic appraisal that factored in the grueling winter schedule – including long road trips – and the fickle nature of luck on the hardwood.

“The season is a really long haul,” said Shira. “You can’t have a bad night or if you have a bad night you have to figure out how to win.”

Yet when the final buzzer sounded at the Burns High School gym Feb. 12, the Vikings walked off the court with a 52-43 victory and a 10-0 league mark.

That was the first undefeated league record for a Viking boys hoop team in more than a decade.

Yet in predictable fashion the Vikings didn’t collapse into merriment.

“It was as good feeling. We were feeling a lot of satisfaction. But we didn’t celebrate. That’s because these guys are hungry for more,” said Shira.

Chasing perfection in any endeavor is never easy and at the start of the league season it didn’t appear Vale was in any better position for dominance than many other teams in the Eastern Oregon League.

The Vikings emerged out of the December preseason schedule with three losses but reeled off five straight victories to start January. The first defeat came Jan. 18 in a non-league nail-biter 88-87 loss to Baker.

Shira said the Vikings had strong defense this season.

“Defensively I think we were just really solid. Our consistent defense, just showing up every night, I think that was key,” he said.

The Vikings had experienced players who stepped up at critical times, said Shira.

“We are extremely deep. We were always able to fill in when there were gaps. We’ve got height and length. We are not weak in any one spot,” said Shira.

Shira, who been at the helm of the varsity team for seven years, said this year’s edition of the Viking hoops squad is the best team he’s coached.

“We have some highly-skilled individuals,” said Shira.

One of those individuals, senior guard John Wolfe, said the season has been “pretty amazing.”

“This year we really turned the corner,” he said.

Team unity, said Wolfe, proved to be crucial to the Vikings 10-0 mark.

“If one guy has an off night, someone steps up. It has gone by crazy fast and it’s definitely been one of endurance but our defense has been solid day in and day out,” said Wolfe.

Sophomore forward Diesel Johnson said the key for the season was “what team stays consistent.”

“It’s been a grind to get 10 down but we have a great group of seniors, a lot of great leaders,” he said.

Last week as Shira prepared his team for an upcoming district playoff game with Umatilla, he reflected on the significance of an undefeated season.

“Going 10-0 is definitely a big deal,” he said.

Yet it was hard not to get the feeling that while Shira and his team were proud of the perfect record, they still had unfinished business regarding the postseason. He said success will be defined by reaching a level of perfection he believes the Vikings are capable of.

“I am not sure we are there yet,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].