Vinton County High School head basketball coach Matt Combs (right) congratulates the players while varsity assistant Coach NJ Kight looks on. (Telegram Photo by Red Thompson, Jr.)
Vinton County High School head basketball coach Matt Combs (right) congratulates the players while varsity assistant Coach NJ Kight looks on. (Telegram Photo by Red Thompson, Jr.)

The 2020-21 Vinton County High School (VCHS) Viking basketball players may have felt they left some unfinished business on the court, but the team still accomplished quite a lot. The squad was also of the best defensive teams to play under Hall of Fame Coach Matt Combs. He was the host of an awards ceremony that took place Wednesday night, March 24 at the VCHS Media Center. 

“Our team has hard-working, disciplined players,” said Combs. “The staff had zero problems with the players and I give the parents credit.”

Before he spoke about the season, he also presented some key awards with regards to the Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) Ohio Division. The Academic Award winners were: Asa Davidson, Randall Matteson, Lance Montgomery and Eli Radabaugh. The All-TVC Ohio selections were Braylon Damron, Montgomery and Radabaugh. The All-District selections were Damron and Montgomery.  

As far as individual achievements, Combs mentioned Damron just missed breaking Naylan Yates’ single-season three-point record, as he canned 58 compared to Yates’ 61. Yates set the record in 27 games in the historic 2016-17 season when the team went 24-3, but Damron hit his 58 in only 21 games. He also pointed out Davidson blocked 62 shots, and that is a big accomplishment. He gave special credit to seniors Corey Disbennett, Brock Hamon, Boomer Herrold, Montgomery and Matteson. Combs stated these players would always be a part of the future success the program has.

Combs stated this team knew how to play defense, but struggled a little on offense, especially at key times, as many losses were by close scores. The team went 13-8, but many of the losses were very close, with the Vikings losing leads in the fourth quarter. Combs said that sometimes this is just the way the ball bounces. 

“We only let two teams score over 60 points on us,” said Combs. “We were a championship-level team on defense for sure. Offensively, though, there were times when we struggled at the wrong time. Maybe we were trying not to turn the ball over, or we would miss a key shot or not pull down the rebound.”

Combs stated he wished the players could have won a Sectional or District title. However, he stated the young men learned how to conduct business, because they came to practice ready to work. He added this year was a challenge to the players.

“I want to thank them for their effort,” added Combs. “You probably never thought you’d have to go through all the changes, but our players made major adjustments. I appreciate these coaches for the work that they’ve done.”

He noted the junior varsity team went 17-3, and a couple of that team’s leaders -- Luke Bledsoe and Jack Davidson -- also saw some varsity time. Combs stated they are dedicated to improving and making their strides on the varsity squad. 

Combs noted the Vikings’ system is one is where playing time has to be earned. He says several of those talented JV players will be vying for time.

He also has a special message to the fans. 

“We are known for big and loud crowds, and our kids respond to that,” he said. “We did not have that and it makes the game different.”

He added that, in the Vikings’ case, the fans are a “sixth man, and next year we can pack the stands and have the community be a part of it.”