CASSTOWN – A young Miami East Vikings team is growing up due to a very competitive stretch of games at the midpoint of the year.
Miami East squared off against Tri-Village the No. 5 ranked Division IV team in the state and the third top 10 team in the last two weeks the Vikings have played.
Tri-Village started hot hitting three triples — two from sophomore point guard Tyler VanWinkle for six points and one from junior forward Damion Cook along with a fielder for five points — as the Patriots jumped on top early for a 14-6 lead.
In the second period the Vikings had a perfect opportunity to sneak back into the game as Patriots big man Tyler Cook picked up his third foul that made Miami East’s triangle two defense even more effective in slowing down Tri-Village’s Colton Linkous.
Offensively sophomore Damien Mackesy and junior A.J. Hickman scored four points each to narrow the lead to 18-14 and the Vikings kept it close to the half at 23-19.
Conner Hellyer and Nick Beard both scored early in the third frame to close the gap at 25-24 and with Tyler Cook picking up a fourth foul momentum appeared to be shifting to the home team.
With Tri-Village senior leader on the bench and the team needing a spark, Linkous stepped forward, scoring seven straight points to give the Patriots a little breathing room.
Damion Cook added a score on a bucket and a foul that was followed by a triple from Mason McCabe and fielder by VanWinkle as Tri-Village closed out the third quarter strong, leading 43-30.
“We really did a nice job containing him (Linkous) up until that stretch,” Miami East head coach Allen Mack said. “He got in a groove and took it to us; that’s what good players do.”
Coach Josh Sagester agreed, “I thought Colton did a nice job staying patient despite seeing a triangle defense for 32 minutes and picked a good time to get things going.”
In the final stanza with Miami East focused on Linkous … he was able to kick the ball to the corner and McCabe responded knocking down consecutive treys to open up a 49-32 lead.
Hellyer gave the East faithful something to cheer about on a rare four-point play after being fouled on a triple. A few minutes later sophomore Brandon Mack connected on one of his two threes to give the Vikings hope.
But Tri-Village was able to spread the floor and work the ball around resulting in layups by Damion Cook, inching the lead back up to 59-42.
Tri-Village then held on to record a 59-47 win over a hard-nosed Miami East team.
Coach Sagester was proud of the way his team responded when facing a little adversity against Miami East.
“This is a tough place to play, the atmosphere, their fans and they compete so hard,” Sagester said.
“We played this summer in games without Tyler Cook so our guys sort of had some experience without him, and we overcame his foul trouble. We had kids step up, Mason McCabe and Tyler VanWinkle both knocked down big shots, and they will have those opportunities when good teams take away our scorers,” Sagester added.
Coach Mack agreed, “Defensively we did what we needed to do … with the exception of a small stretch we kept Linkous in check and held Tyler Cook under 10 points … but they (McCabe and VanWinkle) came up big and that’s why Tri-Village is the No. 5 team in the state and winners of over 35 straight regular season games.
“Overall, I was pleased with our effort and intensity we played hard and this group of young men have been tested over the last few weeks. At the midway point we are better then at the beginning of the year, and we hope to be better at the end of the year then where we are now,” Mack concluded.
Miami East owns a 1-2 record against ranked teams with a 71-63 win over No. 3 ranked Cross County Conference rival Bethel and a loss to No. 7 Troy Christian 57-37 and Tri-Village 59-47.
Miami East goes to 6-6 overall and 4-2 in the league.
Sagester praised his team and pointed out the overall play of Damion Cook.
“He is such a tremendous athlete, maybe one of the best in the conference. He scraps and comes away with balls that I just don’t see how he can get … he epitomizes the competitive nature of this team and why we are still undefeated,” Sagester concluded.
The Patriots remain a perfect 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the CCC.
Miami East is back in action on Friday taking at Newton
Tri-Village gets Covington Friday night and then travels to Troy Christian Saturday night for a show down of two the top 10 teams in the state while looking to avenge their regional loss last year to the same team.
Score by quarters:
TV…14…09…20…16 – 59
ME…06…13…11…17 – 47
TV (10-0, 7-0): D. Cook 15, McCabe 14, Linkous 12, VanWinkle 10, T. Cook 8. Totals: 24-3-59.
ME (6-6, 4-2): Hellyer 11, Mackesy 9, Hickman 8, Mack 8, Beard 5, Villella 3, Karadak 3. Totals: 19-2-47.
3-ptrs: TV 8 (McCabe 4, Van Winkle 2, D. Cook, Linkous); ME 7 (Hellyer 2, Mack 2, Villella, Beard, Karadak)