McARTHUR — And then, there were two.
In what was essentially a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division elimination game, Alexander used inside muscle and a suffocating defense to stifle host Vinton County Tuesday.
The 52-32 thumping, coupled with Athens’ win over Wellston, means that the Bulldogs have claimed at least a share of the league title. The Spartans (14-7, 9-2 TVC-Ohio), meanwhile, get a crack at the other half on Friday when they host River Valley in the season finale.
If it were up to Alex coach Jim Kearns, that game would be just as devoid of drama as this one.
“We finally played the way we practiced,” said Kearns. “We looked really crisp in our workout yesterday — ball reversals, floor spacing, movement — but tonight was the first time in a while that we’ve been able to translate those kinds of things to the game.”
Senior center Caleb Terry and freshman point guard Kyler D’Augustino paced the Spartans with 18 points each, while Terry contributed a team-high nine rebounds and D’Augustino chipped in a game-high four assists.
The defining pair of statistics from the game, however, indicated what Vinton County (12-7, 6-4 TVC-Ohio) failed to do; or, more accurately, what the Spartan defense kept it from doing. First, two of its leading scorers, Gavin Arbaugh and Lance Montgomery, shot a combined 1-of-18 from the field. To make matters worse, the Vikings managed to corral just one offensive rebound in the contest.
“That was on the [locker room] board pre-game — ‘no second shots, and establish the post’,” Kearns explained. “As far as our defense went, we knew that Vinton has had to use Arbaugh at the point, and that at least makes him easy to find. We know their other players feed off him, so we wanted to stay attached through the screens and to make him earn his points.”
“When you’re not getting a lot of open shots, you’re missing the ones you do have, and you’re only getting one each time, that about says it all,” summarized Vinton County coach Matt Combs. “I thought we battled defensively as well as we could have. They finished with 52, and that’s right about where we thought we needed to keep them in order to win the game. We just couldn’t create enough scoring opportunities to keep ourselves in it.”
The Vikings were out of it fairly quickly. Alexander scored the first seven points and were up by double digits before the first quarter expired. Terry was the biggest factor, sinking a foul line jumper on the Spartans’ opening possession and later adding a pair of lay-ins. D’Augustino stepped back James Harden-style for a triple from the top, and senior Trey Schaller worked the boards for five offensive rebounds and two early baskets inside.
When Terry went to the bench with his second personal foul early in the next frame, his teammates didn’t miss a beat. If anything, the Spartans ramped up their defensive pressure. Will Arthur’s pair of dribble-drive bank shots were the extent of the Vikings’ scoring in the second, and they were countered by D’Augustino’s picture-perfect lob pass and his steal from — and off-balance, twisting fast break finish against — a retreating Arbaugh.
“We knew we had no one who could guard Terry. He was going to get his,” Combs said. “But he’s gotten his before, and they’ve lost. Our goal was to stop the other players, but D’Augustino, especially, had a very nice game.”
“18 points on eight shots is pretty efficient,” agreed Kearns.
Vinton County climbed to within 10 only once more, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Zayne Karr and Aaron Stevens, but by that time, Terry had returned to knock down a 9-footer in the lane, convert 1-of-2 from the foul line, and take another lob pass from D’Augustino in for two.
D’Augustino finished off the first half by receiving a give-and-go from Kaleb Easley and switching hands on a scooping lay-in, and he started the second by securing Schaller’s outlet pass and beating everyone down the floor for two in transition.
That made the score 39-20 early in the third, and with the way their defense was playing, the Spartans could sense it.
“We felt like if we could get it down to six or seven points early in the second half, then the pressure would shift to them a little bit, but we never got there,” said Combs. “Give them a lot of credit. They played tough, smart defense. Their aggressiveness pushed us away from the basket and got us out of our drive game.
“In today’s game, you’ve got to be able to play through contact, and we didn’t do a very good job of that. We weren’t able to do enough to force them to back off.”
And so, one of the more interesting and competitive TVC-Ohio races in years comes down to River Valley in the Alley on Friday. Kearns was quick to point out that his team’s 50-36 win in Bidwell last month was deceptively tough and that he’s taking nothing for granted.
“That game was close all the way until well into the fourth,” he said. “River Valley is a solid team, and they’re always a tough out. There’s a lot at stake, but we’re not worried about whether it’s a ‘share’ or not. Let’s just call it, ‘playing for a title’.”
Alexander 52, Vinton County 32
Alexander 18 5 12 17 — 52
Vinton County 7 4 9 12 — 32
ALEXANDER 52 (14-7, 9-2 TVC-Ohio)
Lucas Markins 0 0-0 0, Kaleb Easley 1 5-8 8, Trey Schaller 4 0-0 8, Kyler D’Augustino 5 6-8 18, Caleb Terry 7 4-6 18, Colby Carsey 0 0-0 0, Luke Chapman 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 17 15-22 52; 3-pt field goals: 3 (D’Augustino 2, Easley).
VINTON COUNTY 32 (12-7, 6-4 TVC-Ohio)
Will Arthur 2 0-0 4, Gavin Arbaugh 0 3-4 3, Zayne Karr 2 0-0 6, Lance Montgomery 1 5-8 7, Aaron Stevens 1 0-0 3, Brock Hamon 0 0-0 0, Mason Woodaqll 1 0-0 3, Esiason Herrold 2 0-0 4, Eli Radabaugh 1 0-0 2, Braylon Damron 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 10 8-12 32; 3-pt field goals: 4 (Karr 2, Woodall, Stevens).
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals – Alexander 17-38 (.447), 3-pt field goals 3-8 (.375); Vinton County 10-36 (.278), 3-pt field goals 4-16 (.250); Free throws – Alexander 15-22 (.682); Vinton County 8-12 (.667); Rebounds – Alexander 30 (Terry 9), Vinton County 21 (Montgomery 11); Assists – Alexander 13 (D’Augustino 4), Vinton County 7 (Montgomery 2, Radabaugh 2); Steals – Alexander 5 (D’Augustino 3), Vinton County 5 (Montgomery 3); Blocks – Alexander 2 (Terry, Markins), Vinton County 2 (Herrold, Stevens); TURNOVERS – Alexander 8, Vinton County 9; Team fouls – Alexander 9, Vinton County 19; JV game – Alexander 50, Vinton County 35.