Free Throws Help Vikings in Victory

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The No. 3 seeded Vinton County Vikings (20-4) stunned the (No. 1) Unioto Sherman Tanks (23-2) in the Division II district semifinal 50-47.

The Vikings were down most of the first three quarters, however a 7-0 run to cap off the third quarter gave the boys of McArthur all the momentum they needed for a heroic fourth quarter comeback.

With 5:42 remaining in the fourth quarter Vinton County senior Derick Jones struck gold with a layup that tied the contest at 41 all. But, it was not until 3:43 remaining when the Vikings took their first lead since the early start of the first quarter courtesy of the charity strip.

Vinton County went on to run away with the contest after claiming the lead with 3:43 remaining. Despite senior guard Jordan Albright fouling out with 4:19 remaining, Vinton County shut down the tanks by making clutch free throws. The Vikings concluded the evening 74 percent from the line.

The first half Vinton County did not look like itself, shooting just 18 percent from the field and trailing 28-18. The shots were simply not falling for the Vikings. Unioto seemed to have total control of the contest while shooting 65 percent from the field in the first half.

“At halftime we just talk about if we’re going out we have to go out being ourselves,” Vinton County head coach Matt Combs said. “This thing is a process you can’t really be result driven.  I wasn’t thinking too much about if we win or lose, I just didn’t want to get on the bus tonight thinking why didn’t we play that way.”

Struggles for Vinton County in the first half were to the credit of Unioto outrebounding the Vikings. Unioto ultimately finished with 34 rebounds on the evening. However, Vinton County found the offensive rebounds they needed for second chance points in the second half. Vinton County finished the night with 16 offensive rebounds to Unioto’s nine.

Nine players for Unioto found the hoop on the evening as Unioto showcased it’s depth, but Vinton County executed off of Unioto’s 17 turnovers to escape with the victory.

Vinton County was led by sophomore Naylan Yates who dropped 16 points on the evening.  Junior Tristan Bartoe added 13 points of his own and was 8 for 10 from the stripe.

“(Naylan Yates has) been pretty good the last three weeks, we don’t even get to the second half without him,” Combs added. “He has been a big shot in the arm to us and I am very happy for him as a sophomore, he has come into his own here late in the year and he has been a huge boost.”

The Vikings will return to the hardwood Friday, March 4. for a date with No. 1 Fairfield Union in the district final.