VC vanquished visiting Wellston on Thursday, winning 60-40 in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division girls basketball tilt.
Following another slow start, the Lady Vikings eventually kicked things into high gear, winning the middle two quarters 35-8 en route to the 20-point rout.
With the win, Vinton County keeps undefeated at 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the TVC-Ohio.
The loss leaves Wellston winless in the division at 0-5, part of 3-9 overall.
However, the Lady Rockets are still recovering from the early-season loss of Taylor Mullins, the freshman point guard who just returned to the starting lineup last week.
Mullins missed six straight games with an injury.
On Thursday, Wellston looked much better, and actually led the Lady Vikings 13-11 early in the second period.
However, the Vikings scored all 16 of their second-period points in a row, staking a 27-13 halftime advantage which then ballooned to 46-19 after three quarters.
Wellston won the final quarter 21-14, but both teams were substituting liberally by then. The Lady Rockets were outscored 19-6 in the third frame.
But the tide turned in the second stanza, when the Lady Vikings’ full-court pressure defense hit the proverbial switch.
“It’s kind of finding that adjustment,” said Vinton County coach Jeremy Ward. “Do we want to play man, do we want to trap a little bit, I think we played about five or six different defenses. We were able to switch and keep things moving. Our intensity was fantastic starting in the second quarter.”
For the night, Vinton County collected 25 total steals off of 32 Lady Rocket turnovers. They turned those takeaways into high-percentage shots, as the Maroon and White made 22-of-38 (58-percent) from inside the arc.
“I don’t know how many passes we tipped or balls we tied up tonight, simply because of ball pressure,” said Ward. “We’re getting much better at defending the basketball and keeping the ball in front of us. We’ve improved tremendously in that area, and that’s (defense) really what it takes to be successful. It’s not all on the offensive end, and our kids have really bought into that.”
One of the defensive leaders — sophomore Rebecca Puckett — paced a trio of Lady Vikings in double figures. Puckett, who made off with seven steals, poured in a game-high 16 points on six field goals and 4-of-6 free throws.
The inside-outside combination of Holly Lemay and Tori Dixon each scored 11, as both posted five field goals apiece. Dixon dished out seven of the squad’s 16 assists.
Chelsey Taborn tallied seven points and Jessi Harkins six, as each scored two field goals. Taborn was 3-of-4 at the line while Harkins had six rebounds along with Lemay.
Ward also praised Harkins for her pressure on the basketball at the top of the half-court and full-court traps.
After Amber King scored for Wellston almost three minutes into the second quarter, the Vikings reeled off 16 straight points to end the half.
With a fury of steals, Vinton County led 21-13 at the 2:14 mark. The Rockets never scored again in the second, and only added six more in the third.
The second period was a change from the first canto, when the two teams finished tied at 11-11.
“In the first quarter and into the second quarter, we did a good job,” said Wellston coach Mark Chaney. “We ran a couple of different things at them defensively and tried to throw them off a little bit.”
The Vikings scored the game’s first six points, followed by Wellston accounting for the next seven. Dixon dialed in a three for a 9-7 Vinton County lead.
The Rockets forged the tie at the first stop, but never threatened again after leading 13-11. Wellston shot 40-percent for the game, but was doomed once again by the hefty amount of turnovers.
Mullins, once again, made a difference for the Lady Rockets, as she led her team with 10 points.
Chaney commented on the confidence in which Mullins’ presence brings to the Blue and Gold.
“With Taylor back, we can actually come up and get into our offense and get into situations where we have open looks,” he said. “You saw us getting some open looks on the blocks and we were confusing them a little bit. And you saw spurts of Taylor getting back healthy. Ballhandling, driving to the basket, she’s going to give some teams the second time around some fits.”
Three Lady Rockets scored seven points apiece — sophomore Breanna Hall and seniors King and Erin Sturgill. Both King and Hall had three field goals apiece, including a three-ball by Hall.
Sturgill had two three-pointers as Hannah Wheatley added a three. Adrienne Saylor sank a late triple for the Lady Vikings.
“I told the girls to keep their heads up, they played a quality and undefeated Division II team tonight,” said Chaney. “This is probably, by far, even with the score, the best defensive quarters we’ve had the whole year.”
While Wellston returns home to face Jackson on Monday, the Vikings venture to Nelsonville-York on Thursday in the all-important TVC-Ohio rematch.
Vinton County edged Nelsonville-York 59-57 on Nov. 30 in the division opener.
“Next week is absolutely brutal with Nelsonville-York and (undefeated) Waterford (Jan. 12),” said Ward. “We’re going to have our hands full for sure. Nelsonville-York is tough at their place, and that game is a big game for us to really distance ourselves in the league.”
The Vikings completed the sweep of the Rockets with a 44-21 triumph in the reserve match. Donyel Castor canned 17 points to pace the winners.