WELLSTON, Ohio — If nothing else, the Lady Raiders went down swinging.
The River Valley girls basketball team put up a quality fight for roughly five minutes, but top-seeded Vinton County ultimately used a 10-0 surge over the final 2:38 of the first quarter to pull away for a 62-31 victory on Saturday in a Division II sectional final at Wellston High School in Jackson County.
The eighth-seeded Lady Raiders (6-18) led 4-2 and found themselves knotted up at 9-all with 2:52 remaining in the opening canto, but the Lady Vikings (21-1) countered with back-to-back trifectas over the next 50 seconds that eventually sparked a 10-0 run that resulted in a 19-9 edge through eight minutes of play.
The Silver and Black were again within four possessions following a Hannah Jacks basket at the 5:27 mark of the second frame, but VCHS ended the half with a 16-6 charge that turned a 23-11 contest into a comfortable 39-17 cushion at the break.
The Lady Raiders were never closer than 41-19 with 6:51 left in the third, and the hosts used a small 10-7 spurt from there to increase their lead out to 51-26 entering the finale.
The Maroon and Gray scored 10 consecutive points and secured their largest lead of the game at 61-26 following a Morgan Bentley free throw with 4:22 remaining.
River Valley — which missed its first eight shot attempts in the fourth — ended its drought with a Kaylee Gillman trifecta at the 3:30 mark, which ultimately sparked a 5-1 run to close out the 31-point outcome.
The Lady Vikings — who also defeated River Valley twice in the regular season en route to winning the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division title — advance to face fourth-seeded Miami Trace in a district semifinal on Thursday at Southeastern High School.
River Valley mustered a tournament victory for the second time in as many postseasons after knocking off Jackson to reach the sectional final, plus had five times as many victories over the course of the regular season.
There’s still room for improvement moving forward, but RVHS coach Stephen Roderick noted that his troops gave an incredible effort against the highest ranked team in the bracket for as long as they could.
He also mentioned that his five seniors — Cierra Roberts, Lexi Stout, Beth Gillman, Kelsey Brown and Destiny Dotson — should take a lot of pride in their contributions in getting the Lady Raider program to a better place.
I told the girls after the game that I could not deny our effort. Vinton County is the top seed in the bracket for a reason, but our girls didn’t back down and hung around with them a little longer than most people might have expected,” Roderick said. “They started putting together a couple of runs around the end of the first and the start of the second quarters, and it just started getting away from us at that point. Still, the kids gave everything that they had … and I don’t know what else you could ask for as a coach.
“I know it’s hard for the seniors to understand right now, but they have helped lay a foundation for us to get this program headed in the right direction. We have tripled our win total from a year ago and we have tournament wins in each of the last two seasons. That’s the start of building something positive for the future, so those seniors should definitely keep their heads held high for what they’ve been able to accomplish in their careers.”
There were two ties and three lead changes in the opening stanza, with Kelsey Brown breaking a 2-all tie with a basket at the 5:51 mark.
VCHS countered with seven consecutive points for a 9-4 cushion, but a Savannah Reese bucket with 2:52 remaining capped a 5-0 run to tie things up at nine.
Lacie Williams gave the Lady Vikings a permanent lead with a trifecta 15 seconds later, sparking a 10-0 surge that resulted in a 19-9 lead after one quarter.
The hosts twice led by 24 points in the second frame and were up by as many as 28 points (47-19) in the third after a Josie Ousley 3-pointer with 5:44 remaining.
River Valley outrebounded the hosts by a 35-33 overall margin, but the Lady Vikings did manage a slim 13-12 edge on the offensive glass.
VCHS committed 10 of their 13 turnovers in the second half, while the Silver and Black struggled with the full court pressure and ended the night with 32 turnovers — 16 in each half.
The Lady Raiders connected on 14-of-48 field goal attempts for 29 percent, including a 3-of-10 effort from behind the arc for 30 percent. The guests did not attempt a single free throw in the contest.
Jacks and Kaylee Gillman paced RVHS with 10 points apiece, followed by Reese with nine points and Brown with two markers.
Brown led River Valley with nine rebounds, with Lauren Twyman and Sierra Somerville each hauling in six caroms. Jacks also grabbed five boards in the setback.
Vinton County netted 21-of-61 shot attempts for 34 percent, including a 9-of-27 performance from 3-point range for 33 percent. The hosts were also 11-of-22 at the charity stripe for 50 percent.
Tegan Bartoe led VCHS with a game-high 19 points, followed by Ousley with 16 points and Bentley with 10 markers.
Cameron Zinn was next with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Williams and Emily Jones completed the winning tally with four points each.
The Lady Raiders — after earning only two wins last season — completed the year with a 0-12 mark in TVC Ohio play.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.