PDT Sports Writer
JACKSON — When the shot left his player’s fingertips, West coach Travis Bradford was on his way towards thinking about overtime.
“That’s one of those where that’s a player making a play,” Bradford said. “…From the time it left his hands, it looked like he was balanced and looked like he had a decent look at it.”
On the other side of the floor, Valley coach Scott Rolfe couldn’t do anything but shake his head. But at that point, the emotions and momentum were slowly tipping towards the Indians’s favor.
“I’m thinking (that) Michael Davis isn’t going to hit a runner three because they’re all a catch-and-shoot three (group),” Rolfe said. “Give my coaches credit but they didn’t talk me into it, they wanted me to foul but I didn’t want to call a timeout and ice our own player to talk about a miss.
“I was hoping he would make one of them and then we could call timeout and talk about what we needed to do. But it didn’t happen and give Michael Davis credit, it was a heck of a shot.”
In the end, No. 3 Valley survived a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Davis that sent Saturday’s Division III Southeast Sectional Championship at Jackson High School into overtime. The Indians prevailed 67-62, sending them to back-to-back district appearances.
The SOC II foes, which split the season series with the home team taking each victory, fought in another close battle. The game finished with 12 lead changes and six ties. Each team enjoyed an eight-point cushion as their largest lead in the contest.
Valley’s biggest margin came in the fourth when the Indians enjoyed 54-46 lead. The Senators’ Zach Frye responded with his second 3-pointer of the game to cut the margin to five with :54.6 left in the fourth. The Indians’ Ethan Clark-Holbrook split a pair of free throws and Davis’ layup with :19.1 to go kept hope alive for West. After Valley freshman Bryan Rolfe upped the Indians’ lead to 57-51, Davis stroked another triple to cut the margin in half and force the Senators into their final timeout in regulation with nine seconds left.
Bradford sent out a lineup filled with perimeter shooters with the chance of tying the contest. The prayers were answered when Clark-Holbrook missed the front-end of a one-and-one and allowed Josh Bolton to grab the rebound for the Senators. He found Davis, who knifed through the Valley defense and tied the game with .9 left on the clock.
Things went from bad to worse for the Indians in the extra stanza. Junior Hayden Dunn, who led all scorers with 22 on the night, fouled out with 1:03 left in overtime on an offensive foul. He picked up three fouls previously in the fourth quarter.
“Hayden played a heck of a post game tonight, he was unstoppable when he was one-on-one,” Scott Rolfe said.
On the next possession, Jordan West created a turnover for Valley and was rewarded by burying his fifth shot of the night from downtown. The shot gave the Indians a 63-61 lead that would not be turned over the rest of the way.
“We had talked earlier, Jordan… may had (attempted) two or three shots (in the first half) but we talked with Bryan and Chris (Flowers) about getting as far as getting penetration and getting some kick outs,” Scott Rolfe said. “Hayden done a great job of kicking it out.”
Bryan Rolfe salted the game away by making all four of his free throws in overtime. He finished with 11 points and was a perfect seven-of-seven from the charity stripe, five of which came in overtime.
“It was big because we were up one and we got a turnover,” Scott Rolfe said. “He got out and had the and-one. He was then able to knock down four other one-and-one or two-shot opportunities to finish that out.”
Bradford admitted his team didn’t play the right type of basketball in overtime. He credited being fatigued from the comeback as a factor.
“We made a couple of mistakes there in overtime that, you look back and you wish that you maybe could’ve done a few things differently,” Bradford said. “Like I told our kids in the locker room, they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, they left it all out on the floor and I couldn’t have asked any more effort from each and every one of them.”
In the end, Bradford gave just as much credit towards his bench players for getting the team prepared for the contest throughout the week.
West was 5-of-10 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 points. Davis led West with 20 points. JB Travis added 16 and Michael Hafer chipped in with a dozen.
Travis, Josh and Zach Bolton, Austin Wetzel and Zach Frye will be a part of a Sentators senior class that has made vast improvements in the span of a few years.
“I just asked them to think about where we were two, three years ago and even last year,” Bradford said. “We’re getting blown out in sectional semifinals and to be able to come up here in a sectional final and take our league (co-)champion down to the wire is a testament to how far they’ve come and how much work they’ve put in.”
For Valley, it’s now a March 2 trip to Ohio University’s Convocation to face No. 2 Piketon, which defeated SVC foe Westfall 80-47 Saturday night at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
West — Davis 7-3-20, Frye 2-0-6, Bricker 0-1-1, Z. Bolton 3-1-7, Hater 5-2-12, Travis 6-0-16, Totals 23-7-62.
Valley — Clark-Holbrook 1-1-3, Flowers 2-0-4, Rolfe 2-7-11, Shope 2-0-4, Howard 2-0-4, Brown 0-2-2, West 6-0-17, Dunn 10-2-22, Totals 25-12-67.
3-Point Goals — West 9 (Travis 4, Davis 3, Frye 2); Valley 5 (West 5).
Records — West xx-xx; Valley xx-xx.