KINNIKINNICK — The Washington Blue Lions opened the 2015-16 basketball season taking part in the Zane Trace Tip-Off Classic against the Vinton County Vikings Friday night.
The Blue Lions had a nice start to the game, but the Vikings were able to rally back to post a 60-53 victory.
Washington turns right around and will hold its home opener Saturday against Ross Southeastern. The j-v game starts at 6 p.m.
Senior Cameron Eckles led the Blue Lions with 19 points. He was named his team’s most valuable player of the game.
Senior Max Knisley was also in double figures with 14 for the Blue Lions.
The one player the Blue Lions could not contain on this night was Vikings’ junior Tristan Bartoe, who poured in 31. Bartoe was named his team’s most valuable player of the game.
Also for the Vikings, senior Jordan Albright scored 12 and junior Derick Jones had 10 points.
Washington had probably its best quarter right at the start, taking a 22-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“In the first quarter we came out and made shots,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “We made some easy shots. We beat them in transition and we guarded the ball pretty well.
“The kid we were trying to keep in front of us (Bartoe), he made a couple of threes,” Bartruff said. “He made perimeter jump shots; we liked our chances.”
Vinton County set to work and trimmed that margin by eight points by the half. Washington held a 31-28 halftime lead.
The Blue Lions took a 38-30 lead with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Washington led 42-36 at the end of the third quarter.
Vinton County turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter and had a couple of steals that led to transition baskets.
The Vikings led 43-42 with 4:35 to play in the game.
Knisley scored on the next trip down the floor for Washington. He was fouled and sank the free throw to give the Blue Lions a 45-43 lead.
It was the last time the Blue Lions would have the advantage on the scoreboard.
The Vikings went on an 8-0 run to pull ahead, 51-45 with just under three minutes remaining.
After a couple of missed free throws by the Blue Lions, the Vikings let some of the air out of the ball, patiently running the offense and taking one minute off the clock.
Finally, Albright was fouled and made two throws with 1:43 to play.
Another Blue Lion turnover led to another transition bucket for the Vikings as they took a 56-45 lead.
The Blue Lions had not scored in over three minutes when Knisley scored with 54 seconds to play.
The Vikings made 4 of 6 late free throw attempts, while Kory Proby and Eckles hit a pair of baskets in the waning seconds for the final score of 60-53.
“In the second, third and fourth quarters, we scored 9, 11 and 11,” Bartruff said. “We weren’t as efficient on offense. We didn’t get out and run. I don’t think it was so much anything that they were doing, as much as we weren’t looking to push the basketball as much, and I’m not sure why.
“I thought our effort was okay,” Bartruff said. “We didn’t necessarily guard ball screens really well in the third and fourth quarters. We kind of over-helped. We didn’t do a good enough job with ball screens.
“We didn’t shoot free throws well,” Bartruff said. The Blue Lions were 8 of 15 from the foul line for 53 percent. The Vikings made 13 of 17 from the charity stripe for 76 percent.
“We made some costly turnovers in the second half,” Bartruff said. “We took some bad shots, which were basically turnovers.
“Cameron played hard,” Bartruff said. “C.J. (Taylor) played hard. I thought Kory played well. I thought we got some decent minutes off the bench. I thought Max was solid with the ball.
“They were more physical than we were in the second half,” Bartruff said. “I think we have a chance to be a really good basketball team and surprise some people. I think they were a little surprised, early on. But, credit to coach (Matt) Combs and his team. They slowed it down and got into the pace they wanted. They got their big guys some good looks and capitalized on them.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 22 9 11 11 — 53
VC 11 17 8 24 — 60
WASHINGTON — Max Knisley 5-4-14; Jarett Patton 1 (1)-0-5; Kory Proby 2-3-7; Ryan Flora 0-0-0; C.J. Taylor 1-0-2; Kenny Upthegrove 1-0-2; Griffin Shaw 1-0-2; Cameron Eckles 9-1-19; Brian Wilson 1-0-2; Jacob Knisley 0-0-0. TOTALS — 21 (1)-8-53. Free throw shooting: 8 of 15 for 53 percent.
VINTON COUNTY — Tyler Barnett 1-0-2; Derrick Jones 3-4-10; Jordan Albright 2 (2)-2-12; Tristan Bartow 8 (3)-6-31; Shawn Caudill 0-0-0; Bo McIntyre 0-0-0; Cable Montgomery 0-0-0; Chase Wood 2-0-4; Naylen Yates 0-1-1. TOTALS — 16 (5)-13-60. Free throw shooting: 13 of 17 for 76 percent.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1