The youngest VS fans were among those cheering the loudest as the Vikings won their District opener.

Tyler Bartz followed this key rebound late in the game with two free throws to give the Vikes a 3-point lead in Monday’s victory.

Four years ago, when the unbeaten Vinton-Shellsburg basketball team headed into the District Final, they face a Union team with much fewer wins.

“It was our toughest game until that point,” recalls Viking Coach Joe Johnson. On that night in 2013, the Vikings led Union by just three points at half-time. V-S went on to win and to advance to State.

Now, VS. with 12 wins and 10 losses this season, finds itself on the opposite end of such a contest. On Thursday, they travel to top-ranked, unbeaten West Delaware for the Class 3A District 9 championship, and a chance to advance to the Sub-State game next Monday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The Vikings advanced with a 51-49 win over South Tama (whom they had beaten earlier this season after coming back from a 24-point deficit. The Hawks defeated Clear Creek-Amana, 65-35, to advance.

“They are big,” Johnson said of the West Delaware players. He added that the Vikings would have to play better against the Hawks then they had against the Trojans. During Monday’s game, bad passes and missed shots kept the Vikings from putting the game away.

“We will have to take better care of the ball, and rebound better, although we rebounded pretty well tonight,” Johnson said.

Seniors Cole Smith and Tyler Bartz led the VS effort. Smith scored 19; Bartz added 16 points, with eight rebounds. With about minutes left, Bartz was fouled while fighting for a rebound and made two free throws to but the Vikes ahead by 3. Senior Nathan Struve also snared eight rebounds while scoring seven.

The winner of the VS/WD game will face either Center Point-Urbana or Marion in the Sub-State contest. CPU advanced by defeating Williamsburg, 62-44; Marion defeated Benton 60-58.

See game photos HERE.

See game stats HERE.