McDERMOTT — The Valley Indians, already a solid Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys basketball team, entered Friday night’s encounter at Northwest with full strength.
Unfortunately for the Northwest Mohawks, the Indians’ archrival, the scales only tipped further for Valley’s favor —with junior standout Connor Lintz out with the flu.
Those two factors forged 12 unanswered Indians’ points to end the opening quarter, and Valley followed that up with another 13 unanswered in the second canto — all en route to rolling the Mohawks 73-40 in Roy Rogers Country, and to stay within striking distance of division leader Minford.
The contest featured three ties (2-2, 4-4 and 7-7), all inside the opening three-and-a-half minutes, as Valley initially led for two minutes and six seconds — until the 5:15 mark of the first period.
But with Northwest without its leader Lintz, the Indians eventually —and quite quickly after falling behind 15-7 five minutes in —attacked with their transition game, and scored a massive momentum-turning five points in a matter of a few seconds.
On that note, Valley staked a 19-15 advantage after the opening salvo —then outscored the Mohawks 54-25 over the final three stanzas to complete the regular-season sweep.
It also broke a second-place SOC II tie between the Indians and Mohawks, as far as the loss column was concerned, as Valley raised its record to 10-2 — and 7-2 in the league.
Minford, at a perfect 9-0 in the SOC II, remains atop the division —as Valley’s only league losses are to those Falcons 61-57, and 96-92 in double overtime at Eastern.
In fact, Valley hosts Minford for their second meeting of the season on Tuesday night on The Reservation.
Still, sweeping Northwest —and staying in the SOC II’s second-place position —was job one on Friday night.
It was also the Indians’ third win in four days —all SOC II bouts with Waverly on Tuesday night and at West with a makeup match on Wednesday evening.
“For legs, that’s tough, but our guys seem to be in good shape,” said Valley coach Craig Tackett. “Our guys showed some tenacity tonight, that they just wanted to get after it from tip to buzzer. But that’s the mindset we have to have. Regardless of the scoreboard, we talk about playing to our potential. We have to continue to do that the rest of the way. You can only do what you can do in terms of setting the bar for something.”
The Indians also can only control who plays for themselves, as Northwest was at a distinct disadvantage without Lintz.
Lintz had 11 points in Valley’s 58-46 season-opening win over Northwest on Dec. 6, but he is quite capable and has demonstrated several games of scoring in the 20s or more.
Caleb Lewis landed three three-pointers as part of his four total in the Mohawks roaring out to that 15-7 advantage, but for the final three first-quarter minutes and the opening six minutes and eight seconds of the second, all Northwest got was a Jay Jenkins three-pointer.
By then, Valley was ahead by as much as 32-18 —thanks to its 25-3 run over a span of eight minutes and 45 seconds.
Tackett talked about how Lintz’s absence changed, or did not change, the Indians’ defensive philosophies.
“Connor tries to get to the rim, and he is very good at it. So our defensive philosophy already was to keep him in front. Well now, that becomes keeping Jay Jenkins or Tanner Bolin or the next guy who steps up in front. It did change matchups around, but I thought our guys handled it well,” said the coach. “With our scouting report, our guys were prepared and we seemed to know what each of their tendencies were. So when they stepped over to somebody else, I think they guarded them very well.”
Northwest coach Rick Scarberry said not having Lintz simply “changes everything”.
And, that’s before facing an indeed talented and athletic Indian group.
“It changes every phase of the game for us,” said Scarberry. “It changes our offense, our ballhandling, our defense. He is the glue for these kids and always has been. We saw it last year when he was out injured for about six games. He is a game-changer, he is pretty ill right now, and we hope to have him back by Monday (Jan. 16).”
For Friday night, after the final few seconds of the first period, it was too late.
With Valley trailing 15-7, Colt Buckle scored twice sandwiched around a Parker Lute layup —before junior standout Jace Copley connected with a three-pointer for the Indians’ lead.
But Buckle then stole the ball inside the final three seconds at midcourt, and heaved a halfcourt shot that was well online —and it went in at the buzzer.
Buckle was mobbed by teammates with the incredible swipe and score, and all the momentum moved in Valley’s direction for the remainder of the game.
“That was huge,” said Tackett, of those final two baskets. “We talk about getting the basketball in the right spots. Late in the quarter, Jace makes so much happen for us. Jace is just a great basketball player with a great IQ. Him hitting that three, he is just unfazed and he’s done this so much. I was very confident when took that shot. Then Colton getting that steal, turn and score, we joke with him in practice because he launches a couple of those (halfcourt shot) to get loose. The bench told me as soon as he shot that, it was going in. That was pretty neat and a huge momentum swing.”
Northwest never got closer than 19-18, as the Mohawks’ second serious scoring drought of the game spanned almost six full minutes.
The two Valley baskets to conclude the first quarter, and the first 13 Indian markers of the second, left the Mohawks stunned.
But Scarberry said Northwest aided the Indians’ cause.
“I think we had six straight trips where we turned the ball over. We dribbled it off our foot or threw it away, stuff like that. Against one of the better teams in the area like Valley, you can’t turn the ball over like that. A lot of that is guys playing out of position, guys not used to playing that many minutes, and we’re trying to substitute and rotate,” he said. “You can’t have empty trips and untimely turnovers against good teams. You have to at least come down and get good looks. In the first quarter, we got those.”
But Copley, Buckle, and six-foot and eight-inch senior Levi Stewart got those looks all game.
Copley canned four threes, one in each quarter, as part of a game-high 18 points —which included 4-of-5 second-quarter free throws.
“We switched some things up on offense, trying to get ourselves a better flow,” said Tackett. “We got the ball in Jace’s hands a lot, allowing him to create space for himself and other guys. He just creates and sees the floor so well. He leads us in assists too. He had a day off at school today, but he goes in and still gets shots up for over an hour. It’s just that effort out of him. He shot it so well for us, and that’s with them face-guarding him the entire night.”
He tied Buckle for that game-high, as Buckle’s 18 featured six deuces, his halfcourt trey, and 3-of-3 third-frame freebies.
Stewart scored 16 on seven buckets and 2-of-3 second-half foul shots.
George Arnett added seven, on a first-quarter triple and two third-quarter threes —followed by two second-half baskets and two first-frame free throws from Carter Nickel.
Lute, Hunter Edwards and Chris Queen chipped in fourth-quarter field goals to round out the Indians’ scoring.
Queen’s steal and layup with five seconds left, in fact, made for the 73-40 final —and the Indians’ largest lead.
Lewis led the Mohawks with 14 points, followed by fellow junior Jay Jenkins with a dozen —as Jenkins dropped in three trifectas.
The Mohawks, which fell to 8-3 and 4-3 in the SOC II, are now part of a three-way crowd with three league losses —along with South Webster and Wheelersburg, which Northwest still has makeup games against in February.
But for now, including on Tuesday night at Waverly, the goal is to get Lintz back —and keep the club healthy.
“We’ll be alright as long as we get our guys back and healthy,” said Scarberry. “Our league is tough. It’s like this every night. Everybody is beatable, but it’s a matter of taking care of business and doing what you need to do in every phase of the game to make that happen.”
Valley, meanwhile, gets its desired and anticipated rematch with visiting Minford on Tuesday night.
“Absolutely a huge game as it always is with Minford,” said Tackett. “We know it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a dogfight. It always is. It will be a fun one and a tough one, and a tournament-like atmosphere, but one hopefully we come out on top this time.”
* * *
Valley 19 17 21 16 — 73
Northwest 15 8 9 8— 40
VALLEY 73 (10-2, 7-2 SOC II)
George Arnett 3 0-0 7, Hunter Edwards 1 0-0 2, Colt Buckle 7 3-3 18, Parker Lute 2 0-0 4, Carter Nickel 2 2-2 6, Jace Copley 5 4-5 18, Chris Queen 1 0-0 2, Levi Stewart 7 2-3 16; TOTALS 28 11-13 73; Three-point field goals: 6 (Jace Copley 4, George Arnett and Colt Buckle 1 apiece)
NORTHWEST 40 (8-3, 4-3 SOC II)
Logan Shepherd 0 0-0 0, Caleb Lewis 5 0-0 14, Zane Fry 0 0-0 0, Jay Jenkins 4 1-2 12, Jake Brown 0 0-0 0, Tanner Bolin 3 0-0 6, Nick Hayslip 0 0-0 0, Kory Butler 0 0-2 0, Logan Wolfenbarker 2 0-0 4, Alex Baer 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 16 1-4 40; Three-point field goals: 7 (Caleb Lewis 4, Jay Jenkins 3)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved