Vale's Kade Haueter gets set to block New Plymouth's Nick Woods in a non-league game last Friday in Vale. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – No one could blame New Plymouth basketball coach Jeff Lavender if he was confident his Pilgrims could notch another victory Friday night against Vale.

Just two days before, the Pilgrims took control early to scorch the Vikings 81-56 in New Plymouth.

Yet Lavender said he held no illusions about Friday night’s contest against a Viking team that is beginning – after a slow start – to settle into the hoop season. Lavender said he expected a tough contest Friday night.

“I told our guys that Vale is tough, and it was going to be a battle,” said Lavender.

Lavender was right.

Friday night’s non-league hardwood contest became a war of attrition as the Vikings kept the game close for four quarters before New Plymouth squeezed past to claim a 52-48 win. The Vikings appeared to be a different team than the one that lost to the Pilgrims two nights earlier. Tanner Hamilton scored 14 points and Kade Haueter chipped in 12 to lead the Viking attack and the home team managed to stay in contention until the final minutes.

Vale was also able to overcome another outstanding performance by Pilgrim senior Kaden Leslie, who racked up 26 points Friday night.

“We just competed a lot better,” said Vale Coach Colby Shira.

Instead of a blowout, the Pilgrims faced a determined and hustling Viking squad that routinely made plays – especially creating second-chance shots – when needed.

The game was tied 12-12 after the first quarter but the Pilgrims built a 15-12 advantage with 5:39 to go in the second frame. The Vikings stormed back and tied the game 15-15 with 4:08 remaining in the half and trailed 23-21 at intermission. Vale was within 40-38 midway through the final stanza and the Vikings were within 49-46 with 20 seconds to go.

Shira pointed to the free-throw differential as a key of the game. The Vikings shot 36 percent from the line while New Plymouth was 70 percent.

Because of football playoffs, the Vikings opened the season with very little practice time, a fact Shira said still haunts Vale.

“Offensively it still feels like we are a little behind the teams we are playing,” said Shira. Vale (1-3) quickly bounced back from the Friday night defeat to post a 54-43 non-league win over Payette Saturday. Haueter poured in 18 points to pace the Viking attack. Oscar Bahema and John Wolfe each added eight points for Vale against the Pirates. Vale faced Melba Tuesday night in Melba with results too late for presstime.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.