Tegan Bartoe (copy)

Vinton County’s Tegan Bartoe pulls up for a jumper as part of her 25-point, four assist night in the Vikings’ 51-35 victory over Alexander on Monday in TVC action.

McARTHUR — Vinton County found itself somewhat backed into a corner, facing what felt like a ‘must-win’ situation.

Yet, the Vikings did what they routinely have done time and time again: responded like champions.

With a first-place tie in the TVC up for grabs, the Vikings controlled the boards and played unselfishly to the tune of 13 assists as they knocked off Alexander 51-35 on Monday.

“Our girls were really emotional after the Nelsonville-York loss last week, and they approached this game with a must win mentality,” Vinton County coach Brett Jones said. “We kept preaching to them that it’s a long season after that game because we felt like that game was in our hands, but we had a terrible shooting night. I’m so proud of the girls for how they answered back in a big spot, showing that they can still compete with anyone on any given night.”

It also marked the ninth-straight victory Vinton County has chalked up over the Spartans and now the TVC as three teams atop the mountain in the Vikings, Spartans and Nelsonville-York.

Some things just never change.

The Vikings knew it had to do one thing in order to capture the win: limit Marlee Grinstead’s impact.

The senior guard has been on a tear this season, leading her Spartans in nearly every statistical category while helping them to wins over Nelsonville-York and Circleville so far.

Though she still finished with 21 points and five rebounds, the Vikings forced the ball out of her hands a number of times and forced other players to beat them.

“Marlee and Kara (Meeks) are both wonderful players, and shutting them down was our main goal,” Vinton County’s Cameron Zinn said. “Guarding Marlee is tough because she is such a good player, but I just did my best to stay in front of her and we got the job done.”

Meanwhile, the Spartans had problems all night keeping pace and trying to stop Vinton County’s Tegan Bartoe.

Tied 9-9 after the first quarter, she came out and buried back-to-back 3’s to put the Vikings ahead 15-9, which also give her 10 points up to that point.

However, the Vikings got a nice spark off the bench as Sydney Smith and Lindsey Riddle each connected from deep bfefore Zinn got a bucket to cap an 8-1 run, putting the Vikings ahead 23-14 at halftime.

“Sydney came in played some huge minutes and gave us great effort on both sides of the ball,” Jones said. “You can see the confidence growing on her, and she’s getting comfortable now. Her minutes are only going to increase.

“Lindsey is really intelligent and understands the game. She put in a lot of work over the summer, can hit open shots and has earned her playing time. That was a big shot she hit for us.”

However, Alexander got the ball into the lane with Grinstead to open the second half on an 8-2 run, before an offensive rebound and putback from Zinn put the score at 27-22.

Bartoe then found the range from distance, dialing up back-to-back triples before dishing an assist to Zinn to close the frame on an 8-2 run that pushed lead up to double digits at 35-24 — a lead that remained for the rest of the night.

“All my teammates are great, they got me a lot of open shots, and it was nice to finally make a few,” Bartoe said. “They push me to work hard and score the ball.”

Bartoe finished with a game-high 25 points and four assists, followed by Zinn with nine points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

“Defensively, I thought we played an almost perfect game and I’m so proud of how these girls just battled all night,” Jones said. “This game was all about pride and sometimes that’s all you need. Our offense was very patient and allowed the game to open up naturally. Our bench stepped up with a couple players out, and we just played a really great game.”

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