PIKETON — A fast start, strong finish and suffocating defense propelled the Green Bobcats to a 52-40 win over Paint Valley in a Division IV district semifinal on Monday.
Just how impressive was the Bobcat defense?
When asking coach J.D. King, he said their defense was the deciding factor — particularly their 22 forced turnovers while committing just 10, and holding Paint Valley to 16-of-43 shooting from the field (37.2-percent).
Couple that with the Bobcat trio of Levi Sampson (16 points), Abe McBee (10 points), and Jon Knapp (22 points) combining for 48 of their 52 points and you’ve got a Green team adding a date in the district finals at the Convo in Athens to their calendar.
“They kind of beat us on the boards, they have some length. But that turnover difference 22-10 is the difference in the game in a lot of ways,” King said. “We’ve struggled at times of keeping our turnovers down while trying to play intense and fast. That’s a huge difference in the game for us.”
“I’ve never played that hard of defense in my life,” Green senior Levi Sampson said, after the game. “We were really aggressive, I think we did pretty good on defense. That led to a lot of turnovers and points in transition.”
Green senior Levi Sampson (2) looks to drive during the Bobcats 52-40 win over Paint Valley in a Division IV district semifinal.
Jacob Smith | Daily Times
Green took as large as an 11-point lead in the first half at 15-4 with the senior Sampson scoring the first eight Bobcat points.
He led all scorers with 11 points at halftime as Green clung to a one-point lead (20-19).
The Bearcats briefly took as large as a three point lead in the second half, but it didn’t last long as freshman Jon Knapp got red hot.
Junior Abe McBee’s third quarter three pointer with 2:35 left in the period gave the Bobcats a 28-26 lead they wouldn’t surrender.
After Paint Valley tied the game at 28-all, Knapp scored the next ten Green points on four field goals.
Knapp made a game-high four three pointers as he finished 9-of-14 from the field with a career-high 22 points in the 12-point win.
“That happens. I shoot better when there’s more adrenaline and more people there,” Knapp said. “Excited to play at the Convo as a freshman.”
Green defeats Paint Valley 52-40 in a Division IV district semifinal.
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) February 28, 2023
After a three pointer by Paint Valley’s Braylon Robertson cut the Green lead to two (42-40), the Bobcats closed by scoring the game’s final 10 points in the last three minutes.
Junior Abe McBee stole a pass Bearcat pass and outlet passed to Knapp for a transition layup to make it 44-40.
Then the Green veterans stepped up to the free throw line and knocked down their shots.
In the fourth quarter, Abe McBee went five-of six at the foul line, Sampson went three-of-four, and senior Gabe McBee nailed a pair.
“My free throw percentage this season has been a little down,” Abe McBee said. “I just had to focus, settle down, get the crowd out of my mind and knock them down.”
Green junior Abe McBee went five-of-six at the free throw line during the Bobcats 52-40 win over Paint Valley in a Division IV district semifinal.
Jacob Smith | Daily Times
“Levi carried us early, kind of forced them away from their game plan,” King said, of Green’s offense. “After his hot start they went zone a little earlier than maybe they wanted to. Jon, what can you say? Being a freshman it’s a love hate — sometimes I want to kill him and sometimes I want to kiss him. He really stepped up to our challenge to him on defense, and it’s amazing how a lot of times play on one end can fuel you on the other. That carried true for him tonight. Gabe and Abe — they’re all heart and all passion. They’re intense, don’t stop, they’re the engines that drive this team.”
With the win, the Bobcats will travel to Athens to play at Ohio University’s Convocation Center in a Division IV district championship.
Their opponent in the D-IV, Southeast No. 2 final? The unbeaten Fairfield Lions (24-0).
Fairfield escaped their own district semi on Monday with a 56-53 win over Western Pike.
A win over the unbeaten Lions would give the Green boys program its first district championship since the 1996-97 season and a trip to the Region 15 semifinals next week.
“A lot more of tonight. I think if we play like we have the last few games we’ll have a chance,” King said, of facing Fairfield. “Western gave them everything they wanted tonight. I’m super proud of our league — sometimes I don’t think our league gets the credit it deserves. Western was one play away from having 3 of 4 SOC I teams in the district finals. They’re good, reason they’re undefeated and state ranked. But I think if Western can hang with them then we can too.”
Tip-off between the Bobcats and Lions is set for Thursday, March 2 at 6:15 p.m.
Green 11 9 11 21 — 52
Paint Valley 4 15 12 9 — 40
Green (19-5): Levi Blevins 1 0-1 2, Levi Sampson 6 4-6 16, Jon Knapp 9 0-0 22, Abe McBee 2 5-6 10, Levi Waddell 0 0-0 0, Gabe McBee 0 2-2 2; TOTALS: 18 11-15 52; Three-point field goals: 5 (Jon Knapp 4, Abe McBee 1)
Paint Valley: Cavan Cooper 1 0-0 2, Cole Miller 4 3-4 11, Carson Free 0 0-0 0, Todd Fairrow 1 0-3 3, Braylon Robertson 4 0-0 10, Dax Estep 6 2-4 14; TOTALS: 16 5-11 52; Three-point field goals: 3 (Braylon Robertson 2)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved