ATHENS —In any sporting contest, upsets are part of the equation and Saturday looked to be providing another shocker.
However, in the end, No. 1 Valley was determined to avoid the upset as the Indians defeated the fourth-seeded Coal Grove Hornets 66-65 in a Division III District Semifinals match at the Convocation Center on Ohio University’s campus in Athens.
With 40 seconds remaining in the contest, the Indians were down by a point when some extra Curricular activity took place involving Hornets’ big man Austen Pleasants and Valley senior Ethan Clark-Holbrook. Pleasants was called for a technical foul after shoving Clark-Holbrook to the floor.
The original call was a defensive foul on Jordan West, which sent Coal Grove senior DJ Miller to the line. Miller made one of his two attempts at the charity stripe, which increased the Hornets’ lead to 64-62.
However, because of the aforementioned technical foul, Chris Flowers casually strolled to the foul line with a chance to tie the game. After two attempts, the game was tied at 64 a piece with Valley holding the ball for the last possession.
The strategy payed off for the Indians as senior Hayden Dunn converted a layup with 2.3 seconds remaining. However, all was not lost for Coal Grove as Dunn committed his fifth foul on the inbounds play, which sent Hornet sophomore Sean Paulus to the line with a chance to send the game into overtime.
Howard made his first attempt but missed his second chance. Jordan West secured the game-winning rebound for the Indians who rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Valley coach Scott Rolfe was elated after the game as his team finished the contest with pose, an attribute that Rolfe contributed to the leadership of his seniors.
“It was definitely a tribute to our seniors ,” Valley coach Scott Rolfe said. “We have eight seniors. They have been down that road before although not at this level. They didn’t quit. They didn’t give up. They always feel that they have a shot at winning the ball game and that’s kind of what kept us in it … “
Dunn led the Indians with 21 while West added 17 points in the victory. The effort from his two seniors isn’t a surprise to Rolfe who has witnessed their strong performances throughout the season.
“… There is a reason he (Dunn) was selected player of the year ,” Rolfe said.”And there is a reason Jordan has been all district two years in a row. We’ve had some big games in our league this year and both of them have performed in those games.”
Valley shot the ball well throughout the game as the Indians hit 54 percent of their shots while also converting 20 of 26 chances from the charity stripe.
Valley led 13-9 after the first quarter thanks to five points from Dunn and four points from Ryan Brown who came off the bench to provide a spark for the Indians.
In the second quarter, Valley led by 11 before eventually settling for a 33-24 advantage at the break. However, in the third period, the Hornets went on a 21-8 run to not only get back into the contest but to take a commanding lead heading into the wild finish.
“… These guys being able to fight through that,” Rolfe said. “We had a couple of rushed shots. But other than that, we got back to basics which is getting the ball into the paint …
“It goes back to these guys having a will to win. And they’ve done it all year, well they’ve down it for two or three years now.”
The Indians will make their return to the Convocation Center Sunday as Valley will face the Portsmouth Trojans in the district finals.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @crslone.
Coal Grove 9 15 21 20 — 65
Valley 13 20 8 25 — 66
Coal Grove —Miller 6-3-17, Markins 4-5-11, Akers 5-0-12, Paulus 2-4-8, Adkins 3-1-7, Pleasants 2-3-7. Totals 17-16-65.
Valley —Dunn 6-8-21, West 7-1-17, Rolfe 2-6-11, Clark-Holebrook 3-1-7, Floers 0-4-4, Brown 2-0-4, Shope 1-0-2. Totals 17-20-66.
3-point field goals — Coal Grove 5 (Miller 2, Akers 2, Markins); Valley 4 (West 2, Rolfe, Dunn)