Gavin Arbaugh

Vinton County’s Gavin Arbaugh (5) pulls up against the defense of Athens’ Logan Maxfield (25) last season. After being named special mention All-Ohio last season, Arbaugh is back and ready to lead the Vikings this season.

Note: This preview appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 27 newspaper on Page B1.

McARTHUR — Over the past five seasons, Vinton County has been spoiled with basketball success on the boys and girls level.

However, last year was less than ideal for the boys as they finished 12-11 and lost to Warren in a Division II sectional final.

It marked the first time since 2015 the Vikings failed to make it to the Convocation Center at Ohio University for district tournament action.

But the Vikings are reloaded with experienced players and ready to make their mark once again inside of Division II play.

“We faced a lot of adversity before the season and during the season. While the results don’t look great, there’s really a lot for that team to be proud of,” Vinton County coach Matt Combs said. “It could have turned into a sub .500 season and I give a lot of credit to the kids for sticking it out. Now that we’re more experienced this year, we have to do a better job of handling adversity on the court and prevent small leads from turning into big leads.”

Part of that experienced group is returning three starters from last each in Will Arthur, Gavin Arbaugh and Lance Montgomery.

Those are the guys who Combs will lean on in close games to get the job done and take the Vikings home.

“Although we had those seniors last year, only one of them really had varsity playing time so it’s a bit of unique situation,” Combs said. “We have a good mix of young kids, but are the guys who we’ll ask a lot out of this season. Gavin was special mention All-Ohio last year, so having him back really helps us out.”

Outside of those three returning starters, that’s where things get a little foggy for the Vikings. However, it’s not a bad thing for Combs and company.

“This is been one of the more unique offseasons I’ve had in quite a lot time that I can remember,” Combs admitted. “Usually by now, I’d have an idea about who is going to be my sixth, seventh and eighth guy on the bench. But I truly believe we have 10 guys who can compete and contribute to our success. It’s just a matter of finding the right rotations and knowing when to put guys in.”

Depth is one thing the Vikings to believe to possess a lot of this year with a number of sophomores like Zayne Karr, Braylon Damron and Eli Radabaugh along with Boomer Herold, Brock Hamon and Aaron Stevens also pushing for varsity minutes.

While the rotations work itself out, Combs has been impressed from what he’s seen from his guys in terms of how much they’ve worked to transform their bodies and get bigger.

“It’s a nice mix of young kids and older guys who are working to get better, and right now, everyone is sort of on an even playing field,” Combs said. “Aaron is a really steady player who communicates very well on the floor, Boomer has gotten a lot stronger as a post player and those young guys are really quick. It’s a lot of elements, but it’s a good problem that I have to solve.”

Vinton County has been at the forefront of the TVC for the last few years, but last year wasn’t one of those years.

Now with a reloaded group and a bench filled with untapped talent, the Vikings are ready to reclaim what is theirs.

“We want the TVC championship, that always our regular season goal,” Combs said. “Obviously we want to get better on the court everyday, but we want to be better off the court as well. We can’t just be good on the court when everything is going right, we have to win off the court as well and handle adversities in a much better fashion. Getting to the Convo for districts is great, but it won’t happen if we don’t handle ourselves well off the court.”

Vinton County opens its season on Saturday at home against Miami Trace.

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