Morgan Bentley

Vinton County’s Morgan Bentley (21) drops in a floater over Amanda-Clearcreek’s Gracie Hyme (13) last season. Bentley returns to a loaded Vikings team this season as they aim to win a district championship and more.

Note: This preview appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 20 newspaper on Page B2.

McARTHUR — The memories of how last season ended are still fresh inside of Vinton County’s minds. But that simply adds fuel to the fire.

Last time the Lady Vikings walked off the basketball court, it was a Division II district championship loss to Washington Court House, their second straight loss to the Blue Lions in the playoffs.

But that was last year, and now this year, the Vikings are reloaded and ready to win what they believe should have been theirs.

“The girls have really dedicated themselves al summer to work harder and improve their games,” Bentley said. “We spent a lot of time in the weight room while some played AAU. I think it was a good experience last year with the season ending how it did. It put some gas on the fire and they’ve put in the time to show how much they want it.”

It’s completely understandable why the Vikings are aiming so high. They return every players but three seniors, which starts with reigning TVC and District Player of the Year Morgan Bentley.

Tegan Bartoe, Josie Ousley, Cameron Zinn and Lacie Williams all return to the lineup, alongside Myriah Davis, who is back after suffering a torn ACL last season.

“I really like our team for many different reasons,” Bentley said. “There’s a lot of experience returning and each girl brings something different to the table. Morgan is very well-rounded, Lacie is a deadly shooter, Cameron is probably the best athlete in Southeast Ohio, Josie continues to get better and Tegan is tough.”

Add in Rylee Ousley and Zoey Keifer to the mix, and the Vikings’ firepower continues to rise.

“Both of them bring a different element to the table,” Bentley said. “Zoey gives us a lot more height and length inside. Rylee has improved so much over the summer and I’m excited to see continue to grow. I feel our starting five can play with anybody, but those two are going to be impact players. They didn’t get much playing time last year, but that will change this year.”

Vinton County hasn’t lost a home game since February 6, 2017, a 53-35 loss to Meigs. It’s been nearly three full seasons that it has been undefeated on its own home floor, which is a streak it wants to continue.

It only has nine home games this season, five of them inside TVC play, which its hasn’t lost in two years either.

The Vikings loaded their schedule up with some of the top teams like Eastmoor Academy, Dublin Jerome, Newark, Unioto, Wheelersburg, Warren, Cleveland John Day and Fort Frye.

“We went out and tackled a state wide schedule this year,” Bentley said. “We felt like some of the teams in Southeast Ohio didn’t want to play us, and we’ve had the mindset that we’ll play anyone anywhere. We’ll play against some Division I players all season long, but it’s all to get better. We wanted elite competition because I believe we can do some special this year.”

Part of being among the very best in all of Division II means aiming high and achieving something never done before. But it’s all one game at a time.

“We want the TVC and to continue our home winning streak. But we want that district championship, and much more this season,” Vinton County coach Rod Bentley said. “We know it’s going to be tough and everyone will give us their best shot night in and night out. You can’t count out teams like Sheridan, Circleville and Unioto in the district, but I like our chances.”

The Vikings begin their quest for a banner season Friday night at home against Chillicothe.

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