First-year Johansen High boys basketball coach Allan Davis said his team has been trying to find its identity for the entire season.
After the Vikings' 72-64 victory over Davis High at Johansen High on Wednesday night, that personality appears to have been found.
They're a team that counters its lack of a post player with hustle and long-range shooting. They're a speedy team that will try to run with anyone. And, after Wednesday's win, they're tied for first place in the Modesto Metro Conference.
"It took us about 15 games to find out what we're good at," Davis said. "But I think we've found it. We're pretty happy."
Johansen (6-14, 3-1 MMC) is tied atop the league standings with Davis and Enochs. Downey (9-11, 2-2) is now a game back. The Vikings' tough week continues Friday, with a home game against Davis to end the first half of the MMC season.
Against Downey, the Vikings were red-hot from behind the 3-point arc. They made 10 3-pointers, including Ishmael Athniel's buzzer-beater to end the first half. Jacob Guzman opened the second half with a trey as well, giving Johansen a 53-42 lead. The Knights would only get within six points after that.
"This was a big win," said Johansen forward Derek Singer, who led his team with 15 points. "To be 3-1 after four league games is big for our confidence."
Singer was one of five Johansen player to score at least 10. He was joined by Jacob Guzman and Nate Bolinger (12 points), Athniel (11) and Eric Chavez (10).
Downey countered by trying to get the ball inside to 6-foot-7-inch center Chris Kline. He went for 19 points, but several passes meant for him were also slapped away by the scrappy Vikings defense.
Yuji Williams and Blake Bello each scored 12 points for Downey.
"When you're small like we are, you have to be able to penetrate and dish," Davis said. "We had a tough preseason, but all the kids kept their spirits."
That preseason is now a faded memory. Instead, the Vikings will be concentrating on trying to win a league championship.
"Coach tells us that we're going to live by the 3 and die by the 3," Singer said. "Now we've got a big game on Friday against Davis."
Wednesday night, the Vikings lived by it. They thrived by it.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.