CASTALIA — It took a trip to “The Igloo” for Vermilion to heat up.
One night after its worst shooting performance of the season in a home loss to Willard, the Sailors hit their first five shots Saturday night, raced out to a big lead and held on for a 62-51 win at Margaretta’s home gym, a loud bandbox referred to as “The Igloo.”
The win gave the Sailors (18-2, 10-1 Sandusky Bay Conference) at least a share of its third consecutive SBC Bay Division title.
Senior Mason Montgomery scored 21 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds while fellow senior Jonah Pfeil added 18 points, five rebounds and five steals to lead Vermilion, but coach Kurt Habermehl said the small contributions from his team’s role players made the difference.
“I said last night that I was worried about how we were going to approach this game mentally,” Habermehl said. “I knew we were really tired and it was a tough game (Friday) night coming off our first loss in nine games. I challenged the boys today to make sure they were mentally focused. I knew they were going to be tired, but I told them if they were mentally ready they would be OK.
“I was so proud of them. They came out ready to go. They played their tails off early and they hit a lot of shots early. When we hit a lot of shots early, we’re tough to beat.”
It was 10-4 Vermilion before most fans had settled into their seats. The Sailors connected on 4-of-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter to lead 20-16.
Vermilion built the lead to 35-22 on a Luke Pena basket on a pick-and-roll with Montgomery.
The Polar Bears (14-5, 8-4) answered, scoring the last 10 points of the half.
Margaretta actually took a 40-39 lead at the 4:35 mark of the third quarter on a Nick Leibacher jumper, but the Sailors closed the quarter on a 12-3 run to re-establish control.
Margaretta tried to climb back into it in the fourth, but every time it would put any kind of heat on Vermilion, a Sailors player would make a play.
After hitting a corner 3-pointer to close the third, senior Davis McDaniel created a turnover that led to a Reese Miller basket after the Polar Bears had cut the lead to 52-49.
It was 58-51 with 1:25 left in the fourth when senior Sterling Benko took the first charge of his Sailors’ career.
“They know their roles,” Habermehl said. “They know they’re not going to play a ton, but they know their roles and they perform their roles to the fullest. There are not a lot of egos on this team. They just want to win.”
Benko said he saw an opportunity and went after it when he drew the charge.
“I’ve always tried to draw them, but it’s never went well,” he said. “I thought I would slide in there and did my best. I kind of flopped a little bit, but I just wanted to get the ball back for my team.”
Nine different Sailors saw minutes, and Pfeil said everyone contributed to the win.
“This game we had tons of guys step up and do things they don’t normally do,” he said. “Sterling took his first charge and Davis isn’t the best shooter, even though he can knock down some threes. We have our role players and we have our players who can do it all. They step up and do the right thing when we need it.”
With starting point guard Seth Hurd playing limited minutes due to a hip injury, Habermehl liked how Pfeil filled in at the point.
“He got back in attack mode tonight,” Habermehl said. “Last night he was shooting a lot of jumpers. He’s a good shooter, but he’s a lot better when he’s in attack mode. He knocks down more shots when he’s going to the basket hard.”
Pfeil, who played with his brother, Joby, on two SBC-Bay championship teams, said he was happy the program was able to clinch at least a share of another title.
“I feel wonderful. Winning it for a third year in a row and it being our senior year,” he said. “We have 10 seniors out here, and for all of us to win this for a third time shows that hard work really pays off.
“Basketball is a big thing in Vermilion and it’s like a family. It’s great to get another championship.”
Habermehl said his team will continue to play the fiery brand of basketball it showed against Margaretta the rest of the regular season and into the tournament.
“This is how we’re going to be the rest of the year,” he said. “We’re going to attack offensively and defensively and we’re going to go after people. We know our district is really hard, but this is who we are and who we’re going to be.”
Vermilion 62, Margaretta 51
VERMILION (62): Jonah Pfeil 6-2-18, Mason Montgomery 6-4-21, Reese Miller 2-0-4, Luke Pena 6-0-12, Seth Hurd 0-0-0, Sterling Benko 1-0-2, Zach Kodachrome 1-0-2, Ryan Habermehl 0-0-0, Davis McDaniel 1-0-3. Totals 23-6-62.
MARGARETTA (51): Mitch Raifsnider 6-1-13, Dylan Morris 4-2-11, Nick Leibacher 4-0-9, Jake Leibacher 1-1-3, Brycetin Hedden 4-0-9, Daltyn Weidbrauk 1-2-4, James Weaver 1-0-2. Totals 21-6-51.
Vermilion 20 15 17 10 — 62
Margaretta 16 16 10 9 — 51
Three-point goals: Vermilion 10-27 (Montgomery 5, Pfeil 4, McDaniel), Margaretta 3-10 (Morris, N. Leibacher, Hedden). Field goals: Vermilion 23-52 (44.2 percent), Margaretta 21-46 (45.6 percent); Free throws: Vermilion 6-9 (66.6 percent), Margaretta 6-13 (46.1 percent); Rebounds: Vermilion 34 (Montgomery 10), Margaretta 28 (Raifsnider 6). Turnovers: Vermilion 8, Margaretta 7. Total fouls: Vermilion 17, Margaretta 16. Fouled out: None. Junior Varsity: Vermilion, 53-32.