BLOOMINGTON — Patience at the offensive end and dogged persistence on defense netted the Tri-Valley High School basketball team the championship of the 102nd McLean County Tournament on Saturday at Shirk Center.
Behind 19 points from Blake Cowden and 13 from Travis Goveia, the Vikings claimed a convincing 52-31 victory over Ridgeview for their first tournament crown since 2008.
“This is huge pride for our community and our kids,” Tri-Valley coach Jon Nelson said. “These kids have never had the traveling trophy. It means a lot.”
The Vikings (17-6) led by nine at the half and pulled away after the break.
“This is incredible. This is my sports high, the greatest I’ve ever felt,” said Cowden. “This is the first time in my four years on varsity we’ve had the trophy. I’ve worked hard for four years and it finally paid off.”
Tri-Valley’s trapping zone defense bedeviled Ridgeview (16-7) all evening as the Mustangs could not find the range from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Our defense really came together,” said Nelson, whose team defeated Ridgeview, 52-39, on Jan. 11. “The kids have done a great job with it, and I think it really peaked in this tournament.”
Joel Kussmann hauled down 11 rebounds as the Vikings dominated the boards, 40-21. Austin Spencer chipped in eight points off the bench for Tri-Valley.
“The kids play hard and they’re very coachable,” Nelson said. “They have good chemistry. They play well together.”
Brock Heimer and Cory Winterland scored seven points each to top the Mustangs.
Tri-Valley reeled off 15 straight first-half points as Ridgeview struggled from the floor.
The Vikings scored the final seven points of the opening quarter and got a 3-pointer from Cowden and five Goveia points to open the second period.
Ridgeview, which suffered through a scoreless drought of 6:03, converted only a Heimer 3-pointer from the field in the opening 13-plus minutes. The Mustangs’ first basket inside the arc was a Matt Barnes fast break layup at the 2:33 mark of the second quarter.
Tri-Valley took a 23-14 margin into halftime largely on the strength of a 22-8 rebounding advantage.
Fieldcrest 60, Blue Ridge 50: Senior point guard Brady Sanders scored 28 points to pace Fieldcrest to victory in the third-place game at Shirk Center.
Senior center Cole Klendworth added 12 points and Kyle Crowley eight for the Knights (17-4), who led 40-32 after three quarters.
Travys Nichols scored 18 points and Michael Plunk 12 for Blue Ridge (14-8).
Lexington 54, Flanagan-Cornell 53: Evan Golliday sank the winning basket in the lane with three seconds left as Lexington edged Flanagan-Cornell in the fifth-place game at Colfax.
Golliday also hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to give the Minutemen (16-7) a 52-51 lead. Donavan Laible scored 18 points to lead Lexington, while Jonny Meints added 15 and Golliday 10.
Flanagan-Cornell (12-10) was led by Tanner Bertsche’s 16 points. Chad Gundy scored 12 and Matt Harrison 11.