By Brad Morris
CHILLICOTHE — A dominating second quarter on Friday set the stage for Vinton County to defeat Circleville 58-29 in a Division II Southeast District final held inside Southeastern High School.
The Vikings (23-1) won their first district championship in program history and avenged last year’s 61-45 district final loss to Circleville. It was the 10th consecutive win for the Vikings, whose only loss was against Division I Dublin Coffman last month.
While Vinton County returned all five starters from a season ago and boasted plenty of experience, Circleville’s lineup included four first-year starters, including a pair of freshmen and a sophomore.
The Vikings used their three-quarter court pressure to force the Tigers into 21 turnovers, while committing just two themselves, and pulled down an unheard of 25 offensive rebounds as they controlled the glass by a 39-22 count.
“We knew we had to stay with Vinton County rebounding and take care of the basketball and we struggled with both of those for most of the night,” Circleville coach Steve Kalinoski said. “You could see some difference in the two teams with Vinton County being a junior and senior driven team with size, strength and experience and most of our girls were playing really for the first time in a district final.
“I told the kids after the game that I was proud of the way they battled and competed. This is good experience for us and I told the players coming back for next season that they’ll need to hit the weight room hard and get stronger during the offseason.”
Vinton County was poised to pull away with a 14-6 lead in the first quarter, but the Tigers (16-3) fought back with eight unanswered points, all scored by reigning district player of the year Kenzie McConnell, including a triple from the top of the key to tie the score at 14-14 heading into the second quarter.
“Kenzie got on a little run there and then we mixed in a few things, including some 3-2 zone that we haven’t played much at all this season,” Kalinoski said. “It was nice to give our fans something to cheer about since we had a few more folks here than normal due to the attendance limitations.”
Momentum started to change when McConnell picked up her second call while pulling down a defensive rebound early in the second quarter.
While Kenzie McConnell sat on the bench, the Vikings scored back-to-back baskets off of CHS turnovers and came up with a third consecutive turnover. Kalinoski inserted Kenzie McConnell back into the game, but the Vikings continued what turned into an 18-1 second quarter run to take a 32-15 lead into halftime.
“Vinton County started smothering Kenzie defensively after the first quarter she had and we struggled on offense,” Kalinoski said. “With the way Vinton County can shoot, rebound and play like they did tonight, it’s tough to give up a run like that. Vinton County is a very good basketball team and all the credit to them.”
Vinton County out-rebounded Circleville 16-4 in the period, including grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, and also forced seven turnovers.
Kenzie McConnell and her younger sister Gabby each scored 10 points and controlled seven rebounds for the Tigers. Faith Yancey had five points and Lily Winter added four.
Cameron Zinn and Myriah Davis haf 18 points apiece for the Vikings and Tegan Bartoe added 12.
The Tigers, who were appearing in their third consecutive district final, accepted the runner-up trophy for the second time in those three seasons.
The season isn’t quite over for the Tigers as they are slated to play a two-game series for the Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship against Liberty Union. Circleville will travel to Baltimore on Monday and, if necessary, LU will return the visit to Roundtown on Wednesday. Circleville currently stands at 10-0 in league play and Liberty Union is 9-2. A win on Monday would give the Tigers the outright league title for a second-straight season.
“It’ll be nice to get back at it and still have something to play for,” Kalinoski said.
Vinton County 58,
CIRCLEVILLE — Faith Yancey 2-1-5, Gabby McConnell 3-3-10, Lily Winter 1-2-4, Kenzie McConnell 2-5-10. Three-point goals — Gabby McConnell and Kenzie McConnell. Total — 8-29 11-14 29.
VINTON COUNTY — Myriah Davis 6-2-18, Tegan Bartoe 4-2-12, Morgan Bentley 2-3-8, Lacie Williams 1-0-2, Cameron Zinn 8-2-18. Three-point goals — Davis (4), Baroe (2) and Bentley. Total — 21-61 9-10 58.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 14 1 11 3 29
Vinton County 14 18 19 7 58
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