For the second straight season, the Vinton County High School boys basketball team made it a perfect 10 in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division. As in 10 triumphs, no defeats.
Paul Boggs has more.
McARTHUR — For the second straight season, the Vinton County High School boys basketball team made it a perfect 10 in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division.
As in 10 triumphs, no defeats.
Spearheaded by their five seniors, and aided by 26 points in the second quarter, the Vikings vanquished visiting Wellston 71-37 on Friday night.
With the win, the Vikings complete a second straight perfect season in the TVC-Ohio, and thus a second straight outright division championship.
The division crown is Vinton County’s fourth in five years, with three of the titles being won outright and another being a share.
Prior to their first of four championships in 2004, in which they went 9-1, the Vikings last won the league during the 1973-74 campaign.
Three years ago, they shared the championship with Belpre, as both teams finished 8-2.
However, given the last two seasons, the Vikings have left little to no doubt about who the dominant team is in the TVC-Ohio this decade.
Vinton County coach Matt Combs, the school’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach, has always stressed two team goals at the outset of every season:
“We always want to win the league and get to the Convo,” said Combs, who is completing his eighth year at VCHS.
The first goal is in the books, and accomplished without a blemish for the second straight season.
“We wanted to finish it off unbeaten again,” said Combs. “That doesn’t happen a lot, especially two years in a row. That says a lot about this group of seniors right here. This group right here has won a lot of basketball games.”
The senior class has indeed amassed many victories at Vinton County.
In fact, following Friday night’s Senior Night triumph, the Vikings have won 43 of their last 44 regular-season games, and 46 of the last 49 overall.
Included in those totals are the perfect regular season of last year, a 22-1 overall record, and a school-record 33-game regular-season win streak.
This year, the Vikings are now 18-1 overall. For those into numbers, that’s 40-2 over a two-year time frame.
“These seniors are a great group of kids and most definitely are winners,” said Combs. “And I will be honest with you, for some of them, basketball is not even their best sport. They are not all just basketball players. These kids are just great athletes who know how to win and expect to win and I think that has shown over the last couple of years.”
All five seniors started on Friday night, and — as usual — paved the way for another Viking victory.
Six-foot-five inch center Dustin Guthrie, the reigning TVC-Ohio Player of the Year and likely repeat winner of the award this season, scored a game-high 13 points.
Guthrie, who scored his 1,000th career point two weeks ago, will finish his career, according to Combs, as the school’s second all-time leading scorer.
“Dustin has had a great career here,” said Combs. “I was figuring this up the other day, but I think his record here as a player is 61-13. It’s pretty amazing.”
Andrew Eberts added 10 and Ryan Stewart eight, as the twosome canned a pair of three-pointers apiece.
“Both Andrew (Eberts) and Ryan (Stewart) have had great years. They’ve really given us that outside shooting,” said Combs. “Ryan is probably going to set the school record for three-point shooting in one year too.”
With Wellston trailing by a half-dozen in the second stanza, Stewart sank both of his treys in a span of 30 seconds to push the lead to 32-12 at the 2:45 mark.
The Vikings increased their advantage to 38-13 at halftime, exploding for 26 points in the period while limiting the Rockets to merely three.
All Wellston could sport in the second quarter was a basket by Andy Derrow and a free throw by Slone Cales.
Junior post Jake Prater, who posted 10 first-half points on five field goals, scored six in the second eight minutes.
Guthrie, Ben Batey and Andy Grillo each scored four, and Eberts added 2-of-2 free throws in the canto.
Eberts then buried his two threes in the third, boosting the cushion to 47-17. The lead would remain 30 after three periods, 52-22, as Vinton County’s largest lead of the night stood at 34.
The Vikings had multiple 34-point leads in the fourth quarter, as the margin made good for the final score as well.
One-by-one early in the fourth, the five Viking seniors — the defensive specialist Batey, Guthrie, Eberts, Stewart and Michael Dixon — exited the lineup to a standing ovation.
Both teams substituted frequently in the fourth, as the sophomore point guard Grillo garnered 11 points, including a three. He also dished out five assists.
The Vikings held a 30-14 advantage in total field goals, and shot a sizzling 52-percent from the field (30-of-58). They were even warmer from inside the arc, connecting on 25-of-41 for 61-percent.
Paced by Prater’s six rebounds, Vinton County commanded the boards 27-17. They also forced the young Rockets, which scored the game’s first six points, into 24 turnovers.
Wellston was led by junior Tyler King, who canned three threes and 2-of-2 free throws for 11 points. Derrow and Jeff Matteson, with three field goals and a free throw apiece, managed seven markers.
Cales collected five as did Aaron Jackson, a transfer from Vinton County. Jackson jacked the team’s other triple in addition to King.
Cody Wilkett rounded out the Blue and Gold scoring with a field goal.
The Rockets led 6-0 in the first four minutes, but Vinton County came back to quickly tie things up at 6-6 and 8-8.
The Vikings then moved in front, and never looked back after the first period.
Now they will look to tonight’s regular-season finale — a non-league road game at Waterford.
Both Vinton County and Waterford are members of the Tri-Valley Conference, but reside in opposite divisions.
The Vikings then open Division II sectional tournament play next Saturday, as they are the top seed in the sectional at Wellston.
They will face the winner of Wednesday’s game between New Lexington and Jackson. Tip time for next Saturday’s sectional championship bout at Wellston is set for 3 p.m.
Speaking of Wellston, the Rockets, now having suffered their fifth straight loss, end the regular season at 4-16 overall and 1-9 in the TVC-Ohio.
The Rockets return to action on Tuesday, as they will take on Chesapeake in a Division III sectional semifinal at Jackson High School.
The Vikings completed a sweep of the Rockets with a 72-20 triumph in the reserve match. The junior varsity Vikings, in veteran coach John Royster’s final home game, remained perfect on the year at 19-0.
Brandon Clark poured in 21 points to pace the winners.
* * *
Wellston 10 3 9 15 — 37
Vinton Co. 12 26 14 19 — 71
WELLSTON 37 (4-16, 1-9 TVC)
Jeff Matteson 3 1-3 7, Aaron Jackson 2 0-0 5, Tyler King 3 2-2 11, Brody Speraw 0 0-0 0, Cody Wilkett 1 0-0 2, Andy Derrow 3 1-1 7, Seth Weikert 0 0-0 0, Slone Cales 2 1-3 5; TOTALS 14 5-9 37; Three-point field goals: 4 (Tyler King 3, Aaron Jackson 1)
VINTON COUNTY 71 (18-1, 10-0 TVC)
Andy Grillo 5 0-0 11, Ryan Stewart 3 0-0 8, Taylor Reed 0 2-2 2, Andrew Eberts 3 2-2 10, Ethan Allen 0 0-0 0, Michael Dixon 1 1-4 3, Ben Batey 2 0-0 4, Dustin Guthrie 6 1-3 13, Brandon Clark 0 0-0 0, Steven Thompson 2 0-0 4, Dylan Guthrie 3 0-0 6, Jake Prater 5 0-0 10; TOTALS 30 6-11 71; Three-point field goals: 5 (Andrew Eberts and Ryan Stewart 2 apiece, Andy Grillo 1)