ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — In a game filled with runs, the first one ultimately made all the difference.
Visiting Vinton County made a 14-7 surge over the final 5:22 of the first quarter and eventually made that early lead last Friday night following a thrilling 60-59 decision over the Meigs boys basketball team in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division contest at Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium in Meigs County.
The Marauders (10-8, 5-3 TVC Ohio) never led in the contest, but the hosts managed to overcome an early deficit by tying things up at five-all following a Luke Musser basket at the 5:38 mark of the opening period.
The Vikings (16-1, 8-1) hit four consecutive trifectas and six of their first eight field goal attempts en route to building a 16-7 edge, but MHS countered with five consecutive points to close to within 16-12 with 37 seconds left in the opening period.
Derick Jones, however, stopped the bleeding with a big trifecta with 25 seconds left, allowing VCHS to secure a 19-12 advantage through eight minutes of play.
The Vikings twice extended their lead to as many as nine points, with the last occasion coming with a minute left in the half as Jones netted a bucket for a 30-21 cushion.
Dillon Mahr and Musser followed with consecutive baskets in the remaining 50 seconds, allowing Meigs to close to within 30-25 at the break.
Christian Mattox pulled Meigs to withing a possession with a basket two minutes into the second half, but the Vikings answered with an 11-5 run over the next 4:33 for another nine-point lead (41-32) with 1:26 remaining.
The Marauders reeled off four consecutive points to close back to within five points, but Bryce Damron converted a layup just before the buzzer that allowed VCHS to secure a 43-36 edge headed into the finale.
Naylen Yates gave Vinton County its largest lead of the night (46-36) with a three-point basket 11 seconds into the fourth, but Meigs found a new life at the 7:27 mark as an offensive rebound eventually made its way inside to Jared Kennedy — who delivered a crowd-raising jam that moved MHS back to within three possessions at 46-38.
Kennedy’s slam sparked an 11-3 charge over the next three-plus minutes of play, and the Maroon and Gold were suddenly in a dog fight with a 49-47 deficit with 4:19 remaining.
The guests responded with four consecutive points, but Meigs battled back with a 6-2 spurt that once again led to a two-point game at 55-53 with 41 seconds left in regulation. The Marauders got a 2-for-1 exchange on alternating free throws, which allowed the hosts to pull to within 56-55 with 18.7 seconds left.
Jones buried two free throws with 14.8 ticks remaining to make it a three-point contest, then Kennedy made the first of two charity tosses for a 58-56 game with 7.5 seconds remaining.
Meigs was forced to foul Nevan Yates on the ensuing inbounds play, and Yates calmly buried both free throw attempts with 5.2 seconds left — giving VCHS an all-important two-possession lead at 60-56.
Out of time outs, Meigs rolled the ball inbounds to preserve clock — then found Mattox for an open 25-foot look that hit nothing but net with two seconds remaining.
The Vikings never tracked down the ball after it went through the net, allowing the remaining few seconds to tick away while preserving the narrow one-point triumph.
The Marauders dominated the stat sheet in a variety of ways, with the main difference coming from a 38-20 overall advantage on the glass — including a 20-6 edge in offensive caroms. Both teams valued possessions as each squad committed nine turnovers.
It was a tough outcome to an otherwise gutsy performance, and MHS coach Ed Fry acknowledged as much following the game. His biggest problem with the night was trying to find the one that got away, because he thought his troops did everything it needed to get out this one with a victory.
“I told the kids in the locker room that we have nothing to hang our heads about. Our defense started to wear on them a little bit as the night went along, but they made some big shots early on and we just never could seem to get out of that hole,” Fry said. “We took care of the basketball, we played with a lot of heart and we did a lot of positive things out there on the floor. We can certainly look back and find where we could have got another point or two throughout the course of the night, but it just wasn’t meant to be for some reason.
“I will say I am happy with the way that we played because it’s the best that we’ve played in a while. The guys did everything that we asked them to do to win this one, it just didn’t happen. Hopefully we can bottle this effort up and take it with us heading into the next few weeks.”
Meigs connected on 21-of-59 field goal attempts for 36 percent, including a 7-of-19 effort from behind the arc for 37 percent. The hosts were also 8-of-12 at the free throw line for 67 percent.
Musser led MHS with a game-high 19 points, followed by Mattox with 14 points and Kennedy with a double-double effort of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Zach Bartrum was next with seven markers, while Dillon Mahr and Weston Baer respectively rounded things out with six points and two points. Bartrum also hauled in eight rebounds in the setback.
The Vikings netted 20-of-39 shot attempts for 51 percent, including an 8-of-18 effort from behind the arc for 44 percent. VCHS also made 12-of-20 charity tosses for 60 percent, including a 7-of-10 effort in the final eight minutes.
Naylen Yates led the guests with 14 points and Jones contributed 12 markers, while Tristan Bartoe and Jake Speakman each chipped in 10 points. Damron also had eight points for the victors.
Eli Griffith was next with four points and Nevan Yates completed the scoring with two markers. Jones hauled in a team-best five caroms and Griffith also grabbed four boards.
The Vikings — who currently own a one-game lead on Athens in the league standings — secured a season sweep of MHS after posting a 64-56 decision in McArthur back on January 13.
Meigs has now dropped two straight decisions and VCHS just picked up its fourth consecutive triumph.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.