LANCASTER — In the stretch run, league-leading Teays Valley went on the road and took care of business in defeating second-place Fairfield Union 49-42.
“We got to this stretch and I said, ‘What else could you want other than you’re in first and the three (league) teams left on your schedule are in second?’” TV coach Doug Etzler said. “One at a time – they’re buying into that. They’re confidence is high, but their togetherness is what’s carrying us through.”
It was the sixth-straight Mid-State League Buckeye Division win for the Vikings (11-7, 9-3).
“The whole second run through the MSL we’ve talked about every game is an MSL championship game,” senior Ryan Wolfe said. “Tonight was MSL championship No. 5. That’s how we’re attacking it. Just with that mindset, we’re playing a lot more aggressive and we’re doing what we need to do.”
Wolfe led the Vikings with 16 points on Thursday as part of a balanced attack that saw Max Young score nine and Riely Weiss and Preston Gothard each add eight while Tanner Kendig put in six.
“It’s really been our calling card in our stretch right now. You look at our last game and we had four in double figures with the high being 11,” Etzler said. “It makes it tough for a defense to key on one guy. We know they’re going to key on Ryan, so it’s going to be tough for him. Other guys stepping up loosens things up for him, too.
“Our seniors, (sophomore) Cam Primmer stepping in there and (junior) Riely Weiss stepping in there as underclassmen, have really bought into the togetherness of this and don’t care about anything except we make the shot.”
Teays Valley trailed 12-9 after the first period but had a 23-20 lead at the half.
The Falcons (11-7, 7-5) outscored the Vikings 10-2 to start the third quarter, but the Vikings answered with the next three scores and basket from Max Young after an offensive rebound put TV on top 32-30.
While there would be a couple of ties, the Vikings never trailed again.
“We really needed to get a couple of stops together to halt their momentum,” Wolfe said. “In the third quarter, I wasn’t getting much offensively so we had some other guys step up and that was great. I was really proud of those guys who stepped up in the third and early fourth quarters.”
With the Vikings up 44-40 with a minute left in the game, the Falcons found themselves in the odd situation of not having been whistled for a foul in the second half. Needing to send the Vikings to the line to try and get the ball back, Fairfield Union committed seven fouls in a 10-second span — but the plan didn’t work.
With one from Wolfe and two each from Young and Gothard, the Vikings hit 5 of 7 free throws in the final 38 seconds to seal the game.
Teays Valley won the rebounding battle 31-26, led by 10 from Young.
“Max Young is a warrior for us,” Etzler said. “He looked tired in the first half – it’s been two games in three days for us, but he didn’t come out one time tonight. He guts it out.”
Weiss grabbed six boards and Wolfe had five.
Huston Harrah led Fairfield Union with eight.
The Vikings held the Falcons’ offense eight points under its season average.
“It was really our defense,” Wolfe said of the win. “Defense is where we’re going to get it done and that’s what we need.”
Next up for the Vikings is an afternoon game at Logan Elm on Saturday, where the JV start at 1.
The Falcons stay home Saturday to play Circleville.
• Teays Valley was a 35-33 winner in the reserve game.
Garrett Meddock led the Vikings with 16 points while Eli Burnett put in six, Trey Purdon had five, Cody Kennedy had four and Adam Benschoter and Peyton Weiler each had two.