LOGAN — Warren head coach Blane Maddox felt like his Warriors had a height advantage against the Vinton County Vikings during Wednesday’s Division II sectional semifinal.
That upper-hand in the paint helped lead to one of the best quarters the veteran head coach has seen out his squad.
No. 8 Warren pulled away from a scrappy Vikings team with a third-quarter haymaker, leading a 64-44 victory inside Logan High School’s Jim Myers Gymnasium.
Warren led No. 9 Vinton County by only three points at halftime, but put the game away when it won the third quarter, 29-7.
“I told them that’s one of the best quarters we’ve played, this program has played in a long time,” Maddox said. “I was proud of them, the way they came out in that third quarter.”
Warren (14-9) made 12 of 16 shots from the field in that quarter, committing only one turnover.
When the dust settled, the Warriors led 53-28 and were well on their way to an appearance in the sectional championship game on Saturday.
“That’s what we’re capable of,” Maddox said. “We have to put four of those together and be a scary team on Saturday.”
The third quarter put the brakes on the Vikings’ bid to extend their tournament season. Vinton County put together a solid first half, going on a a 13-2 run to lead 21-20 after two Braylon Damron free throws.
Warren’s size advantage was evident early in the game — Jake Baumgard scored three baskets on the block in the first quarter alone — and the Vikings found themselves down 18-8 after a Kurt Taylor second-quarter 3-pointer.
The Vikings (13-9) adjusted to the game’s physicality, and used defensive pressure to get back into the game.
“We were able to adjust to the way the game was being handled,” Vinton County coach Matt Combs said. “They were letting us play, let’s put it that way. I thought we adjusted to that. We probably got as handsy with them as they did with us. We were able to cause some turnovers with it. That’s what you have to do, you have to adjust. We did that.”
Vinton County forced Warren into 11 first-half turnovers, and trailed just 18-13 after Lance Montgomery scored five consecutive Viking points.
It was a 10-0 run after Aaron Stevens’ assist to Boomer Herrold in the paint forced an 18-18 tie.
Warren was able to withstand the run enough to still lead at halftime. Brayden Sallee scored inside, and Brandon Simoniette made a pair of free throws for a 24-21 halftime edge.
While the Vikings were very much in the game, Combs felt like they missed an opportunity to take a lead into the halftime locker room.
“We were only down three, but it just felt like maybe we let an opportunity get past,” Combs said. “Then we started the second quarter with two missed free throws, right off the first play. Then the momentum really swung after that.”
The momentum swung quickly, as Sallee collected an offensive rebound off his own miss for a score, then completed a post up for 28-21 edge.
Taylor’s 3-pointer gave Warren a 31-21 lead just 2 minutes and 18 seconds into the third quarter, forcing Combs to call a timeout.
Warren continued to build on the lead, going ahead 35-21 after Simoniette completed a four-point play after being fouled on a made corner 3.
When Baumbard added another field goal in the paint, the Warriors were on a 17-2 run and led 37-23.
“They put a lot of pressure on us, but we talked about attacking the pressure. Don’t pull it back out, attack the rim and the pressure and try to get to the rim,” Maddox said. “I thought the guards did a lot better job in the second half of that.”
Warren went ahead by 22 points, 47-25, after Joel Chevalier kicked out to Simoniette for another 3-pointer.
Sallee added two more field goals later in the quarter, giving him eight points in the frame. He led Warren with 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, adding 13 rebounds.
Warren shot 51.3 percent (20 of 39) from 2-point range in the game.
“We wanted to establish that all night and it was obvious, we wanted to go down low,” Maddox said. “We felt that was one advantage we did have and I felt we did a pretty good job.”
The Warriors nearly doubled the Vikings up on rebounds, winning that battle 49-25. They collected seven blocked shots to just one for Vinton County.
“When we got down 10 there in the third quarter, we were just having a hard time finding energy to get back in it,” Combs said. “That physicality will wear you down when you’re the weaker team. Obviously, we’re not as strong as them, as big as them. I thought it wore us down pretty bad, then that caused it just to snow ball. It went from bad to worse.”
Warren’s biggest lead came at 32 points, 62-30, after a Simoniette free throw with 4:40 to play.
Simoniette added 13 points and two blocks, while Baumgard added 11 points. Taylor had nine points on a trio of 3-pointers, while Chevalier had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Warren will take on No. 1 Fairfield Union on Saturday on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Logan. The Falcons were 59-36 winners over No. 16 River Valley on Wednesday.
Montgomery led Vinton County with 10 points, while Gavin Arbaugh had nine points, five rebounds and two assists. Damron added seven points off the bench.
The Vikings still have a regular season game left, hosting Meigs on Monday in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division makeup game.
It will be a chance for seniors Arbaugh, Stevens, Will Arthur, Mason Woodall and Arden Peck to play one final high school game.
Then Combs said the Vikings will focus on getting bigger and stronger for next season, so quarters like the third against Warren can be avoided.
Vinton County entered the season with only three returning players with varsity experience, but still earned 13 victories and remained in the TVC-Ohio race until the closing weeks of the season.
“We beat the teams we were probably able to match up with and play,” Combs said. “We had a hard time getting over the hump against your Jacksons and Fairfield Unions and teams like Warren. We played a tough schedule, but we just weren’t physically ready to play in those games. We weren’t able to play in those games physically, unfortunately. Hopefully next year, we’re retuning quite a few guys, we’ll be a year older, a year stronger. That will help.”
Wiseman is the sports editor of the Athens Messenger.