By Brad Morris
As the Teays Valley boys basketball team boarded the bus on Friday afternoon for the trip over to Baltimore and a Mid-State League Buckeye Division game against the Liberty Union Lions, coach Brian Barnett knew the Vikings were in good shape.
“Our guys had the look that they were on a business trip and everyone was focused and knew what we had to do,” Barnett said. “When you are playing for a league championship, there can be a few nerves associated with that, but I felt pretty good about how we would play when I saw the attitude our guys had getting on the bus and then on the ride over there.”
The Vikings jumped out to an early lead it would never relinquish and defeated the Lions 64-45 to win a share of their first league championship since 2019 and the 10th overall in program history.
“We felt like winning the league was possible going back to summer basketball and it was one of the goals we set as a basketball team,” senior Ivan Smith said. “We played well together over the summer, we got along and we carried that into the season.
“It feels great to see how everything came together over the course of the season, tonight and to win the league championship.”
Teays Valley (16-4, 13-1) shares the honor with Fairfield Union (19-3, 13-1), after the Falcons hammered Bloom-Carroll 66-37 last night. The two teams split their season-series, with the Vikings winning 52-39 on Dec. 13 in Ashville and the Falcons prevailing 49-27 on Jan. 27.
The Vikings have four players averaging double figures and almost perfectly followed that script again on their way to the league championship.
Sam Miller posted a monster double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, Kole Nungester also turned in a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, Brody Fields scored 13 points and Ryan Allton accounted for nine points, six assists and four steals.
“We have an unselfish basketball team,” Allton said. “We do a good job of moving the basketball around and creating good shots in our offense. As long as we win the game, that’s what is most important.”
Seniors Brayden Primmer, Ivan Smith and Allton agreed that the win over Fairfield Union, followed by defeating defending district champion Upper Arlington 53-43 on Dec. 30 gave the team the momentum it needed to put together a championship season.
“We knew Fairfield Union was going to be good and to beat them in our gym gave us a leg up in the league and then going up to Upper Arlington and winning on their floor really showed us what we were capable of,” Primmer said. “Then, we came back here and beat Bloom-Carroll (in overtime) and swept the season series from them last month, which hasn’t been done in a while.”
The Vikings have blended their senior class with junior Sam Miller, and a pair of freshmen, Nungester and Fields. They have also developed depth with Smith, junior Riley Dick and sophomore Luke Burgett.
“Adding Kole and Brody has allowed us to spread the floor more, it has made us more balanced and tougher to guard, because we have a bunch of guys who can lead the way on any given night,” Allton said.
“We have a good rotation in the post with Sam, Brayden and me and we do a nice job of communicating with each other and contributing,” Smith added. “We’ve had a lot of guys contribute to this season and that’s made it nice.”
Primmer also discussed the chemistry the Vikings have developed over the course of the season.
“We have good chemistry as a basketball team where everyone fits in, has a role and everyone has accepted their role,” he said. “As seniors, we’ve tried to help the Kole, Brody and our other freshmen with the jump up to varsity basketball, and they’ve done a great job of making the transition.”
The Vikings jumped out to a 7-2 lead and, after the Lions cut their deficit to a point, finished the quarter on an 11-4 run to take an 18-10 advantage.
Five players scored during the opening stanza, led by Fields making two of his three baskets in transition for six points. Miller chipped in five points and Nungester drained a triple.
Teays Valley extended its lead to 35-19 at halftime with four players helping to carry the load in a 17-point second quarter.
Miller led the way with seven points on three field goals, including a triple, and Nungester and Allton added four points apiece. Allton closed the half with a nifty turnaround jumper in the lane.
“Sam’s playing the best basketball of his career over the last four or five games,” Barnett praised. “He commanded the paint tonight and did anything that he wanted.
“Ryan had another one of his steady games, where he did a little bit of everything. He’s a high-energy player that our other guys feed from.”
Landon Piccirllo scored 14 points and Cooper Manson added 12 for the Lions (9-10, 6-8).
The Vikings returned to school following the game and cut down the net on the east end of the gym before family and friends as they enjoyed their league championship.
Teays Valley hits the road again to close the regular season with non-league games against Grove City today and future Ohio Capital Conference Buckeye Division rival Canal Winchester on Tuesday.
“We’re on a good run right now and we want to keep it going,” Allton said. “We want to finish the season strong and then make a run in the tournament.”
Teays Valley 64,
Liberty Union 45
TEAYS VALLEY — Kole Nungester 6-0-15, Brody Fields 5-2-13, Ryan Allton 3-3-9, Riley Dick 1-0-2, Ivan Smith 1-0-2, Brayden Primmer 0-2-2, Sam Miller 9-2-21. Three-point goals — Nungester (3), Fields and Miller. Total — 25 9-11 64.
LIBERTY UNION — Slade McClaskey 2-0-4, Ted Jencson 1-0-3, Cole Flanagan 2-0-4, Landon Piccirillo 4-2-14, Cooper Manson 5-1-12, Austin McClure 1-0-2, Jaden Smith 2-2-6. Three-point goals — Piccirillo (4), Jencson, Manson. Total —17 5-9 45.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Teays Valley 18 17 17 12 64
Liberty Union 10 9 15 11 45