Gavin Arbaugh

Vinton County’s Gavin Arbaugh finished with a game-high 18 points in the Vikings’ season-opening 69-45 victory over Miami Trace on Saturday.

Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, Dec. 4 newspaper on Page B3.

McARTHUR — Miami Trace may not have held a lead in the game, but they gave Vinton County all types of problems.

But in the end, the Vikings had a second gear that the Panthers didn’t possess which allowed them to pull away with a 69-45 victory on Saturday.

“I was pretty proud of our kids. We’ve struggled throughout the preseason with turnovers and keeping our heads up after making mistakes,” Vinton County coach Matt Combs said. “But we improved in all of those areas in this one. We gave away an earlier lead and Miami Trace tied the game, but our guys showed mental toughness and made a couple shots. It snowballed from there.”

While the offensive balance was there for the Vikings as three players scored in double figures, it was at the free throw line where the biggest story was told.

The Vikings sank 16-of-21 shots at the stripe, compared to Miami Trace hitting just 4-of-13 on the free shots.

“It’s good to see us hitting those shots and converting extra points,” Combs said. “Sometimes it can fluctuate depending on who gets there but the right guys got to the line. Layups and free throws go a long way, it’s a big thing for us to make those at a high mark.”

Gavin Arbaugh’s versatility was the headline in the game. He had four early points and an assist as the Vikings lead 8-3 before closing the quarter with a 14-8 lead.

Arbaugh then scored or assisted on the Vikings’ next eight points, pushing the lead up to 22-8.

However, Miami Trace fought its way back into the game with an 8-0 run of its own behind the shooting of Trevor Barker. In total, the Panthers drilled five first half 3’s and cut the lead down to 28-26 at the break.

“Miami Trace switched to a zone defense and we couldn’t handle it at the time,” Combs said. “They’re a huge team having four guys who are 6-feet-6 and taller, and playing against a zone with that size, it looks like there’s nowhere to pass the ball. Every passing lane we thought was open turned into a turnover.”

Miami Trace continued to battle and try to get itself over the hump knowing that it had the size advantage inside.

It’s offense went through Logan Rodgers, but the problem was it couldn’t stop the Vikings on the other end.

Both teams went back and forth before deadlocking at 40 going into the final frame.

However, the Vikings made their move behind Arbaugh and Lance Montgomery, which ultimately sealed the Panthers’ fate.

The duo combined for an 8-0 run out of the gates before Braylon Damron connected on back-to-back 3’s to put the game out of reach for a Viking victory.

In total, the Vikings outscored the Panthers 41-19 in the second half (29-5 in the fourth quarter).

“We talked about solving Miami Trace’s zone at halftime, and I’m not sure that we really did solve it, but we made more shots,” Combs said. “We’re not a big team so we’re going to shoot it a lot from the outside. In my mind, the 3-point shot is the best in basketball as long as you take the right shots. If we get 30 good looks from distance, then we’re firing all day. We have confidence in our guys to put the ball up and make them.”

Arbaugh finished the game with 18 points, followed by Montgomery with 17 points and four rebounds.

Aaron Stevens added 11 points and five rebounds while Damron had eight points.

Up next

Vinton County is back in action on Tuesday at home against Zane Trace.

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