ATHENS - Vinton County's goal since March 10, 2016 has been to make it back to the 'Sweet 16'.
Now they're taking it a step farther.
That's because the Vikings advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a 62-54 win over Meadowbrook in a closely contested game in Thursday's regional semifinal at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens.
"Needless to say, it was a stressful game, but they are all going to be that way at this point in the season," said Vinton County head coach Matt Combs after the win. "We've got to get used to it, but fortunately we have some seniors who handle it well.
"Then tonight, we had some young guys step up, which was good to see."
Tristan Bartoe and Naylan Yates did not score for the Vikings in the first half.
Yates though, scored all 17 of his points in the second half to lead the top-seeded Vikings in the victory. He also grabbed a team-high in rebounds with seven.
Bartoe, who scored 27 in the Vikings' win over Unioto in the district final last week, was held to just four points. The senior point guard did, however, have three rebounds, five assists and two steals for the game.
In addition, Derick Jones added 13 points and Jake Speakman had 12 for Vinton County (24-2), which will play in a game on Saturday that could send them to their first-ever State Final Four.
"Derick and Jake both played a pretty nice game tonight," said Combs. "They (Meadowbrook) did a good job of guarding Tristan tonight and luckily, those guys stepped up."
Justin Cork scored 14 points for Meadowbrook, which finishes its season at 24-4. Parker Black chipped in 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Trey Singleton added 12 points for the Colts.
Meadowbrook led by one after one quarter and 20-19 at the half.
After trailing 30-29 with 3:18 left in the third quarter, the Vikings used a 10-4 surge to take the lead for good, capped by Nevan Yates, who hit a three-pointer from the baseline to end the quarter.
"That was a big shot," Combs said. "Nevan sits over there (on the bench) a lot, some nights more than others and that's tough. I told him time-and-time again, I don't lack confidence in him, but there's a bunch of good guards on this team.
"I've told him he was going to have his moment and he needed to be ready and he sure was tonight. He hit that three and had a putback basket in the fourth, then he had a blocked shot. He basically dominated about a two-minute stretch for us."
Vinton County led by five, 39-34 to begin the fourth, but Meadowbrook was able to close within two on a basket by Black. Then the Vikings used an 8-0 run and led 48-40, following a three-pointer by Naylan Yates with 5:09 left.
Singleton scored on back-to-back possessions for the Colts and made a free throw to cut the lead to three, but Yates converted two free throws 17-seconds later to push the lead back to five.
Then Black's layup basket with 3:14 left cut Vinton County's lead to 50-47, but Nevan Yates grabbed his own miss and put it back up for a score on the Vikings' next possession.
From there, the Colts missed four of their last six shots, while the Vikings converted on 10 of 12 free throws to secure the win.
Vinton County will return to the Convocation Center on Saturday for a 3 p.m. match up against Columbus Eastmoor Academy in the regional final. The third-seeded Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Fairfield Union 55-37 in the other semifinal game on Thursday night.
"They really passed the eye test," Combs said about Eastmoor Academy. "We are happy to be advancing and it doesn't matter who we play. We are going to come Saturday and bring it the best we can."
The Vikings won the game by outscoring the Colts 43-34 in the second half and outrebounding them 34-24, after holding a slim edge on the boards (16-14) at halftime.
Vinton County held the early advantage as Eli Griffith scored on back-to-back possessions to give the Vikings a 7-2 lead with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Meadowbrook, however, used an 8-2 run and led by one, 10-9 after a quarter of play.
Vinton County's biggest lead in the second quarter was three after Jones hit a 3-pointer with 2:41 left.
But the Colts held a 20-19 lead at halftime after outscoring Vinton County 6-2 in the final 2:17 of the quarter.
It was the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Vikings.
"At halftime, the talk was sharing the ball and getting some movement. The thought was, eventually something will breakdown and we will get to the rim and I thought we did," Combs said. "It was a physical game tonight at the rim, but we just kept attacking and we eventually got to the free throw line a little bit."
A three-pointer by Naylan Yates with 3:10 left in the third quarter - just the second for the team in the game - gave Vinton County the lead for good.
Then a three-pointer from the left baseline by Nevan Yates before the third-quarter buzzer put the Vikings up 39-34 and the rest is history or better yet, history making, as the win pushed Vinton County into the Elite Eight for the first time in the history of the program.
Meadowbrook 10 10 14 20 - 54
Vinton County 9 10 20 23 - 62
MEADOWBROOK 54 (24-4)
Konnor Roberts 2 0-0 6, Trey Singleton 5 1-1 12, Justin Cork 7 0-0 14, Parker Black 4 5-8 13, Logan Wolverton 3 1-2 8, Dalton Wood 1 0-0 3, Alec Bell 0 0-0 0, Bobby Feyko 0 0-0 0, Davis Black 0 0-0 0, Easton Black 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 22 7-11 54; 3-point goals: 3 (Singleton 1, Wolverton 1, Wood 1)