VISALIA - For the Vikings to reach their goals of playing at Selland Arena in February, the 69th Annual Polly Wilhelmsen Invitational was a step in the right direction.
Kingsburg (14-1, 1-1 CSL) continued its early season surge by defeating El Diamante (8-8) 68-53 in the Polly Wilhelmsen Championship game at Mt. Whitney High School on Saturday.
The Vikings exploded on offense in the second half after being down 26-21 at halftime. Kingsburg outscored El Diamante 20-13 in the third quarter and 27-14 over the final period.
Since suffering their first loss of the season to Hanford West on Dec. 17, the Vikings have won five games in a row and are looking like the Central Section Division IV favorites after capturing the Polly Wilhelmsen title. Out of the Kingsburg’s 14 wins, 11 of them have resulted in double-digit victories.
“I’m really proud of them,” Vikings head coach Todd Brown said. “They’re getting a ton of good experience against really good teams. We’re getting playoff type games now, which is huge for these guys.”
Nate Towsley was named the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring a game-high 18 points against the Miners. Jose Martinez (12 points) and Matthew Ruegge (11) also scored in double figures in the championship game for Kingsburg. Colby Charles was named the tourney’s most inspirational player, along with Martinez earning All-Tournament honors.
The Vikings run to the finals included rolling over Porterville 66-47 in the first round, a 61-53 victory over Redwood in the quarterfinals, and a thrilling 66-64 win over Tulare Western in the semifinals.
Other the victory over El Diamante, the two-point win over Tulare Western was Kingsburg’s standout win of the tourney, a game that ended in a game-clinching block from Charles. The junior blocked a potential game-tying shot from Jesse Freeman, who was driving to the paint before attempting a floater.
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“His block was vicious,” Towsley said. “It was so crazy. He sent it into the stands. We’re going to be talking about that one for a while.”
Along with making the game defining play, Charles led the Vikings with 19 points while Martinez added 14 and Jason Gunn had 11 to give Kingsburg three scorers in double figures in the nail-biting win.
In another game with an intense atmosphere, the Vikings led Redwood 41-40 through three quarters in the quarterfinals at Redwood High School. Kingsburg proceeded to outscore the Rangers 20-13 in the final quarter to advance to the semifinals. Logan Byrum poured a team-high 14 points while Towsley scored 13 and Charles had 11 in the quarterfinal game.
“I feel like this is going to help us get to where we want to be,” Charles said. “We’re not there yet, we’re not anywhere near there yet, we have so much more to grow honestly. Me personally, I know I could do so much better and I feel this tournament is preparing us.”
Kingsburg’s first two games were at Redwood High, as the four-day event featured basketball action at both Redwood and Mt. Whitney high schools.
The Vikings will return to the hardwood in a non-league showdown with Kerman (2-7) at the Central Valley Showcase at Sanger High School on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. and it’ll be the second of a seven-game slate in Sanger.
Kingsburg will return to CSL action in a pivotal matchup at home against Dinuba (14-1, 2-0 CSL) on Jan. 7.