In an effort to make sure his team played with more passion in practices and games, North Shore coach Keith Freund challenged his squad to increase their intensity in early January.
The Vikings were winning before the challenge, but now they're winning big. Real big.
Tuesday was no different. Amanda Johansen and Erin Sheerin scored 17 points each to lead host North Shore to a 77-48 win over Island Trees in Nassau Conference A-IV girls basketball.
Since Freund's pep talk, the Vikings have won all six of their games by a combined 175 points. Their closest win was by 27 points.
"Ever since then, they're very focused," Freund said. "They know they have opportunities for some good things this year and they really want to succeed. It's fun to watch."
Twelve players scored for North Shore (13-1, 9-0), which all but guaranteed an outright conference championship and are the presumptive favorite for the No. 1 seed in the Class A playoffs. The Vikings lead the conference by two games with three games left; they've defeated their remaining opponents by a combined 90 points.
"Our team is so well balanced and when everyone can contribute like that, it's a great team effort," said Johansen, who had five rebounds and three assists. "When our whole team goes hard like that -- we all go all out -- I think we're pretty unstoppable."
Island Trees had an early lead in the first quarter, but after a North Shore timeout, the Vikings closed the quarter on a 16-3 run to lead 22-10. Caroline Robertson hit a pair of three-pointers during the run for six of her eight points.
North Shore carried the momentum into the second quarter as Johansen started off the frame by converting a three-point play. Island Trees (10-3, 7-2) closed out the half strong, but still was faced with a 41-25 deficit at the break.
Maggie Milonakis, who scored 11 points, cut the gap to 43-30 early in the third quarter, the closest the Bulldogs got.
Sheerin (eight) and Johansen combined for 15 of the last 34 points as North Shore pulled away. Alex Cantwell had five of her six points in the fourth quarter. She also had six rebounds and three assists.
"What it says to me, we're not a one-player team, we're not a two-player team," Freund said. "It's almost, in my opinion, who are you going to guard? Because there's so many kids that can score."