DOWNS — Unseasonably warm weather had seeped inside the Tri-Valley High School gymnasium, pushing the temperature higher than usual for basketball.
The Vikings turned warm into sizzling hot in a flash Tuesday, opening their season with an impressive 74-47 nonconference victory over Clinton.
“We had three weeks of practice. There was no doubt our guys were ready to play. They were excited to get a game,” Tri-Valley coach Jon Nelson said. “Three weeks is a long time, but they worked hard every day and were really focused and ready to go today.”
The Vikings shot out to an 11-2 lead on the strength of two 3-pointers from 6-foot-6 senior Clayton Leipold. Clinton (4-1) closed within 17-15 on a Jacob Hospelhorn 3-pointer and trailed by four entering the second quarter.
Tri-Valley cranked up the intensity a bit more with an 11-0 second-quarter surge as Kolton Weichman came off the bench to bomb in a pair of 3-pointers.
“We have a lot of guys who can make shots,” said Nelson. “This group of kids just plays really well together. No one cares who scores, they do a really good job sharing the ball and they really fight for one another.”
Leipold scored 17 of his game-high 19 points as the Vikings carried a 41-24 advantage into halftime,
“We’re expecting a lot of big things,” said Leipold, who was 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. “I’m more of a shooter, but I can play inside, too. I’ve been working in the offseason trying to shoot as much as I can, getting it down.”
Clinton committed nine of its 16 turnovers in the second quarter.
“Everything that could go wrong for us went wrong, and they did a lot of things right,” Maroons’ coach Clay Haurberg said. “It looked like we had grease on our hands. We did not handle the ball well, and we dropped a lot of rebounds.”
Tri-Valley opened the second half with a Mason Cagley trey for a 20-point lead. Even after a 35-foot third-quarter buzzer-beater from Hospelhorn, Clinton still faced a 58-34 deficit.
“Do I think this defines our team? Absolutely not,” said Haurberg, whose squad shot 34 percent from the field. “This is not the Clinton basketball team we are. We played poorly in a lot of areas.”
The Vikings connected on 31 of 66 shots (47 percent) and outrebounded the Maroons, 44-28, behind 11 boards from John Symanski and nine from Nolan Anderson.
Cagley added 18 points, Weichman 13 and Anderson 12 for Tri-Valley.
Austin Baker led Clinton with 15 and Hospelhorn had 10. Seth Westfall contributed eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.