SOUTH WEBSTER — Time and again for Friday night, the Valley Indians amassed a double-digit advantage.
Time and again, the host South Webster Jeeps just kept cutting into that cushion —until they finally took the lead with less than two minutes remaining.
Then, finally, indeed persistence paid off —and ultimately paid dividends —for the Jeeps, which shut the Indians out over the final four minutes and scored the game’s final nine points, as South Webster won in incredible, and likely improbable, fashion 53-49 in a Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt in Jeep Country.
To be exact, the Jeeps trailed six times by 10 points —at 12-2 and 14-4 in the first canto and at 31-21, 34-24, 36-26 and 39-29 in the third.
The Indians amounted the opening eight points, and South Webster was within one point (18-17) once for the first 27 minutes and 24 seconds.
But the Jeeps just didn’t go away, and outscored the Indians 34-24 for the second half —finally getting back to within one-point deficits again at 45-44 (4:36 to play) and at 49-48 (2:56 to play).
Eli Roberts, the six-foot and seven-inch South Webster standout sophomore, then gave the Jeeps the lead (50-49) with a minute and 48 seconds remaining —on a rebound putback for two of his game-high 24 points on eight field goals and one of his game-high 13 rebounds.
A full 56 seconds after that, the Indians’ ultimate undoing occurred —as senior Colt Buckle was whistled for an offensive foul, followed by fellow senior Carter Nickel getting tagged with a technical 10 tics later.
Valley, and second-year coach Craig Tackett, vehemently argued the calls to no avail, and Tyler Sommer split South Webster’s free-throw situation — making it 51-49 with 42 seconds left.
Roberts, who did miss his first three foul shots of the fourth quarter including a front-end pair of the one-and-one bonus situation, redeemed himself in the final 5.3 tics —meshing a pair of tosses for the 53-49 final, and after Buckle missed back-to-back one-and-ones of his own.
In short, it was a thrilling comeback triumph for the Jeeps (11-4, 6-4 SOC II) and a stunning defeat for the Indians (10-4, 7-4 SOC II) —as both teams left South Webster High School on Friday night with four defeats, all coming in SOC II play.
South Webster led for only 108 seconds, but they seized the advantage when it mattered most —and kept its deficit during the game to 10 points or fewer.
SWHS coach Brenton Cole commented on the comeback victory, and how it serves as a resume-builder for the Division IV postseason tournament.
The athletic and experienced Indians, which returned all but two of their regular rotation from last season’s Division IV district championship unit, is a 10-plus win Division III program this season.
“Really good win against a good Division III team, in our conference and ahead of the tournament draw. It’s big for us,” said Cole. “I’m really proud of how hard our guys worked and fought back tonight.”
While trailing 14-10 at the first stop, and at 25-19 at halftime and 41-35 following three frames, it never felt like South Webster was out of touch from charging back —but the Jeeps had to make some fourth-quarter defensive stops, which they did in limiting the Indians to only eight fourth-quarter points.
Those were a basket apiece in the first four minutes by Buckle, junior Jace Copley, and seniors George Arnett and Levi Stewart —as the Indians missed all three of their foul shots in the fourth.
“We did a good job there in the fourth making sure we secured the defensive rebounds, limiting their shots. I don’t think we did a good job in the first half of really putting a body on someone and boxing out. That was a point of emphasis in the second half, along with not letting Buckle get direct drives and making sure we helped on those and not give up layups,” said Cole. “We had to rotate better, because when you rotate down, you are in a better rebounding position.”
Roberts grabbed 10 defensive boards to go along with his 8-of-13 shooting performance which included a second-stanza three-pointer, and Sommer —who overcame a 5-of-15 shooting night — supplemented Roberts with eight rebounds, including six on defense.
But the pair’s offensive putbacks, including back-to-back by Roberts for the 50-49 lead, set the stage for the dramatic next minute —and if you’re an Indian fan, a controversial one.
Tackett was asked about the offensive foul on Buckle, and the technical foul assessed to Nickel.
“I just thought we were battling through contact all night, and when Colt (Buckle) and Jace (Copley) were trying to get to the rim, it was very physical out there. That was what I was alluding to there. Carter said he was talking to the guys (teammates), but we’ll have a conversation sorting all that out. I just thought we came out with some fire tonight at the beginning, but in terms of closing it out, it was a matter of not doing the little things,” said the coach. “We missed a lot of shots that we normally make, and we gave up too many offensive rebounds. That doesn’t help, especially when South Webster was shooting it well and they were getting after it and challenging us on the boards. We were crashing the boards, but a few times when we really needed to, we didn’t come up with the ball. A couple of key moments there at the end were really tough for us.”
Conversely, the game got easier for Roberts and Sommer —as Roberts posted at least four points in every period, including seven apiece in the middle two quarters and finally six in the last.
He scored seven two-point goals, and sank 7-of-11 free throws.
“Eli is a big moments player. He always wants the ball at those points in time,” said Cole. “I was confident he was going to make those shots and those free throws.”
Of Sommer’s 14 points on five total field goals and 3-of-4 foul shots, 10 of those markers came in the fourth quarter.
Will Collins chipped in two buckets apiece in quarters one and three, while Christian White with a third-quarter three, Dylan Shupert with a third-quarter two, and Owen Mault with a fourth-quarter deuce rounded out the South Webster scoring.
The Jeeps overcame a 3-of-20 (15-percent) three-point performance by shooting 17-of-32 (53-percent) from inside the arc.
“We needed to make sure we were cutting and moving against their zone instead of just standing. A lot of times we just stand, tend to watch, don’t really sprint through, don’t really get in the gaps. They fixed all that in the second half,” continued Cole. “It got us more looks at the rim, more layups, and more people were crashing the glass to get those offensive rebounds and putbacks.”
Once again for the Indians, four players reached double figures — paced by Buckle’s 15 points on six field goals and 3-of-5 free throws.
Levi Stewart scored six baskets for a dozen points, and notched a double-double with 10 rebounds, as Arnett (two twos and two threes) and Copley (four field goals) canned 10 points apiece —as Copley’s old-fashioned three-point play put Valley up 39-29 with 12-and-a-half minutes left.
Valley shot 37-and-a-half percent on 21-of-56, including 41-percent on 18-of-44 from two-point range —but just 3-of-12 (25-percent) from distance.
Tackett said this one indeed got away from his Indians.
“Congratulations to South Webster on just putting that late effort together and really playing hard throughout. This one is tough to swallow for the simple facts that it’s a conference game, it’s a game you have multiple 10-point leads throughout, and it’s a game where you want to bounce back on a positive note after losing such a hard-fought game against Minford (71-66) on Tuesday night. It’s really frustrating,” he said. “It’s one we would like to have back, but we have to use this as a learning opportunity. We have to put a full 32 minutes together. Tonight, it was three-and-a-half quarters. It takes all four.”
For Cole and the Jeep crew, momentum moved their way —and paved their way for the win —with being better by 10 in the fourth.
“A couple calls like that are always momentum swings, and that’s after we came back in the fourth quarter to take the lead,” he said. “Even when we got down 10 points those times, the crowd was still in it and the guys were encouraged by that. They just never gave up tonight, and we were strong with the ball and got good stops late. This one is big for us.”
* * *
Valley 14 11 16 8—49
South Webster 10 9 16 18— 53
VALLEY 49 (10-4, 7-4 SOC II)
George Arnett 4 0-1 10, Hunter Edwards 0 0-0 0, Colt Buckle 6 3-5 15, Parker Lute 0 0-0 0, Carter Nickel 1 0-0 2, Jace Copley 4 1-1 10, Levi Stewart 6 0-0 12; TOTALS 21 4-7 49; Three-point field goals: 3 (George Arnett 2, Jace Copley 1)
SOUTH WEBSTER 53 (11-4, 6-4 SOC II)
Connor Bender 0 0-0 0, Christian White 1 0-0 3, Dylan Shupert 1 0-0 2, Owen Mault 1 0-0 2, Jaren Lower 0 0-0 0, Tyler Sommer 5 3-4 14, Eli Roberts 8 7-11 24, Will Collins 4 0-2 8; TOTALS 20 10-17 53; Three-point field goals: 3 (Christian White, Tyler Sommer and Eli Roberts 1 apiece)
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