A season that started with championship aspirations hit a snag when Teays Valley dropped five consecutive games and entered the second half of the season sporting a 5-7 record.
“We felt coming into the season that we were the favorite to win the league, so when we had that losing streak it was a wake-up call for everyone,” Teays Valley senior guard Ryan Wolfe said. “We lost three league games during the first round, but since everyone was beating up on each other, we knew we were still in position to win the league if we got back to doing the little things, starting with playing elite defense and finishing on offense.”
The Vikings have since rebounded to win seven consecutive games and, on Saturday, secured the outright Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship with a 46-31 win over host Logan Elm.
Teays Valley is yielding just 39.1 points per game during its winning streak after allowing 57.8 points when it lost five-straight and six of seven games.
Logan Elm was held to a season-low 31 points after scoring 62 points in the first meeting between the Pickaway County rivals last month. The Braves were limited to just 9 of 41 (22 percent) shooting, and suffered two droughts of 13 minutes and 14 seconds and nine minutes and 15 seconds when they were held without a field goal.
“Logan Elm did a nice job of being patient when we faced them last month, spreading the floor and getting 1-on-1 matchups that were to their advantage to get to the basket,” Teays Valley coach Doug Etzler said. “We backed off a little bit while guarding them today, while still being able to get a hand in their face when they shot the three.
“We also did a better job of having help when they did get into the lane with some length, so it would be more difficult for them to shoot.”
Max Young poured in a game-high 16 points to go with seven rebounds for the Vikings, who won their first league title since 2015 and first outright crown this century. Riely Weiss followed with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists, and Wolfe added eight points and four rebounds.
“We’ve been much more balanced with our scoring during the second half of the season, and that’s made us a harder team to defend,” Wolfe said. “Riely’s really come on during the second half and is playing a pretty good floor game, and then Max Young worked hard in the offseason and has given us an inside presence that we needed.
“When you add that to guys like Davis Gothard, Tanner Kendig, Brodie Booth and me knocking down shots, we can spread the floor and have a lot of different options to use.”
The Braves took early leads of 3-0 on a three-pointer by Isaac Ward and 5-4 on a layup from Jeremy Wietelmann with 4:50 left in the first quarter, but didn’t knock down another field goal until their opening possession of the second half.
“Teays Valley had a good game plan and we had trouble knocking down our shots,” Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson said. “Their length caused us some problems and it’s hard to win when you shoot (22 percent) from the field.”
Teays Valley ended the opening quarter on an 8-1 run, powered in part by a pair of baskets by Young, to take a 12-6 lead.
The Vikings used a three-pointer by Weiss and a pair of field goals from Young and Booth to extend their lead to 19-9 at the break.
Ward ended Logan Elm’s first field goal drought of the afternoon with a layup, starting a string where the Braves scored on three of their opening four possessions of the second half. A three-pointer from Ward and a free throw from Jason Sailor closed the Braves’ deficit to 21-15, but that’s as close as they came for the rest of the afternoon.
“I thought our guys were going to make a run there, but we had trouble sustaining any type of offense,” Stiverson said.
Teays Valley put together a 13-0 run to close the quarter, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers from Kendig and a triple by Wolfe, to take a 38-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Max Young helped to get us going early and then our kids put together a nice run there in the third quarter when they moved the basketball well and knocked down open shots,” Etzler said.
Ward led the Braves with 11 points, Gabe Chalfin had eight points, four rebounds and three assists, and Sailor added six points and three steals.
The Vikings finished the afternoon 19 of 44 (43.2 percent) from the field, and used their height advantage to post a 35-22 advantage on the glass, including nine offensive rebounds.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday. The Braves (10-9, 7-5) continue league play at Circleville (6-13, 2-10), while the Vikings (12-7, 10-3) host former MSL rival and Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division co-leader Canal Winchester (17-3).
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to see a former league rival and get a tournament tune-up against a taller team that shoots the basketball pretty well,” Etzler said.