WAVERLY – After a big Tri Valley Conference win at Pomeroy Meigs on Friday night, Vinton County headed back on the road Saturday for a tough, non-conference road test at Waverly.
Due to an injury, the Vikings were forced for the second straight night to play without guard Andrew Eberts. In the absence of the senior sharp-shooter, Vinton County got great contributions from a number of players.
The Vikings turned their defense up a notch in quarter number two allowing Waverly only four points which allowed Vinton County to open up a nine-point halftime advantage – an advantage that eventually stretched to has much as 14 and resulted in a 52-39 Vikings victory.
“I can’t say enough about how hard our kids played tonight,” said Vinton County head coach Matt Combs. “Playing two tough road games this weekend without Andrew really forced some guys to take on some bigger roles, and I thought we really had some guys step up and play well.”
Vinton County got another big time performance from its All-Ohioan center Dustin Guthrie. After scoring 26 points in Friday night’s win, the 6-5 senior followed up with 20 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks, but he was definitely supported by some great effort from several other teammates.
Senior Ryan Stewart scored 10 of his 13 points in the game’s opening quarter, and sophomore Ethan Allen produced a series of great hustle plays – an offense rebound, two steals, and a block shot – during a late first-quarter, early second-quarter stretch that all led to Vinton County buckets. Senior Ben Batey, who scored eight points, also created a spark in the second quarter causing a pair of Waverly turnovers and scoring back-to-back buckets to help VC create some breathing room at the break.
“I thought we did some nice things in transition throughout the first quarter,” said Waverly coach Travis Robertson. “(Trevor) Walls did a nice job running the middle of the floor and our guards did a nice job of looking ahead. The problem is our consistency. We score 15 points in the first quarter and then only 4 in the second.
“In the first quarter I thought we did a good job of recognizing Vinton County’s changing defense,” the Waverly coach continued. “As the game went on we did not execute well. I thought we panicked at times and got in hurry and made some poor decisions.”
With Vinton County leading 28-19 at halftime, Waverly got a Trevor Walls field goal to trim the lead to seven, but the Vikings then got a three-pointer from Stewart, a Guthrie lay-up, and an Andy Grillo steal and score to give VC its biggest lead of the game at 35-21 forcing Waverly to use a timeout.
Waverly (2-7) would put together a few small runs but never really could find a way back into it as Vinton County junior forward Jake Prater grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored four quick points to start the fourth quarter killing any hope of a Tiger comeback.
The Tigers were led by Walls with 13 points. A huge bright spot for the black and orange continues to be freshman Harrison Martin. Martin, who scored 25 points Friday night in Waverly’s overtime loss to Minford, was in double-figures again on Saturday scoring 10 points while Ramone Conley ended with nine points.
“We realize we are going through some tough times, but we as coaches and players are in this together,” said Robertson as his team will return to action at Portsmouth West this Tuesday. “We just have to continue to practice hard and get this thing turned around.”
The win improves Vinton County to 11-1 overall and the it will put its perfect TVC record on the line when the Vikings take the short trip over to rival Wellston Friday night and then welcome Nelsonville on Saturday.
“We just have to keep getting better,” said Combs when asked of his upcoming schedule. “I feel like we have a great group of competitors on this team, and it is important that we continue to practice well and get ready for another difficult weekend next Friday and Saturday.”