Mohawks hang on at Valley



Northwest senior Connor Lintz (1) goes up for a basket during the Mohawks’ non-league boys basketball game against Valley last Tuesday night at Valley High School.

Courtesy of Guy Queen

LUCASVILLE — Valley’s Jace Copley, just about, was the Grinch who came oh so close to stealing the Northwest Mohawks’ Christmas.

Instead, the Mohawks had the opportunity — after all — to celebrate such a critical rivalry win.

That’s because the senior standout Copley, who erupted for a game-high 35 points, needed three more for the host Indians—as his game-winning buzzer-beating shot just missed, and the experienced Mohawks held on for a nailbiting and non-league 54-52 victory last Tuesday night on The Reservation.

With the Mohawks (Division III) and archrival Indians (Division III) now residing in opposite divisions of the Southern Ohio Conference for boys basketball, they meet from this point onwards as non-league opponents.

But the rivalry is still the same —just as intense as it was last Tuesday night.

And, a close encounter all the way it was —with 14 lead changes and four ties, as a Tanner Bolin basket for an old-fashioned three-point play put the Mohawks ahead 54-52 with a minute and 13 seconds remaining.

Copley, the University of Pikeville verbal commit who was returning from a two-game absence due to a shoulder injury, collected a game-high 35 points at that point — and had two chances to first tie the contest for the Indians inside the final minute.

On his second, he drove the lane and missed —as Northwest senior Jay Jenkins grabbed the rebound.

The Indians, however, had to foul the Mohawks three times to trigger the bonus free-throw situation —and did so with Jenkins getting fouled with 6.6 seconds showing.

But unfortunately for Northwest, Jenkins missed both free throws —and it ultimately came down to Copley on the other end, getting a good look at a three-point goal.

The last-second shot missed, though, as Copley appeared overcome with emotion —while the Mohawks celebrated the big win.

The victory raised Northwest’s record to 6-1 —and got the Mohawks temporarily back on track, as they suffered their first loss of the season only three days earlier against undefeated South Webster.

“Kids hung in there. Sometimes, I’m like ‘what are we going to do stupid now?’ And we do it. But down the stretch tonight, I thought we did a good job. Got some big rebounds down the stretch, stepped up and persevered when we needed to. It’s a big win for us. This is a good place to get a road win,” said Northwest head coach Rick Scarberry. “We’ll take it, brother. It’s a high-level game for this area, and this close to Christmas, it was a good win to get. Every pass was important, every shot was important, every possession was important.”

The Mohawks are an experienced unit —with three senior starters which have done such since they were freshmen.

More on them momentarily.

The Indians, which fell to 2-4, graduated seven seniors from the 2023 club —but returned the first team all-Southeast District Division III scoring machine Copley.

Copley, who went off for 35 at Greenup County in the season opener, concluded his scoring average after the Northwest bout at 27.3 points per game.

Valley senior Jace Copley (13) drives around Northwest senior Caleb Lewis (4) during Tuesday night’s non-league boys basketball game at Valley High School.

Courtesy of Guy Queen

He finished with 13 total field goals and 7-of-9 free throws, as he attempted 18 twos and made 11 —with another 2-of-9 on three-point goals.

Valley head coach Craig Tackett said simply Copley kept the Indians in it — and that he took a good shot at the end which didn’t go in.

“Jace came back after missing a couple of games with that shoulder and he just battled his tail off tonight. It was just him being him. Proof of what he can do. To come back and do that and score 35 is impressive,” said Tackett. “I was very happy with the way that he played and very happy with the way the rest of our guys battled. We talked at the beginning of the year that this team has one guy (Copley) coming back with a ton of experience. Games like this, where one team has one guy with a bunch of experience and they have five on the floor that do, you can’t simulate that or mimic that in practice.”

That’s true —as the Mohawks matched Copley with fellow senior Connor Lintz, who poured in a career-high of his own with 32 points.

While Copley canned a pair of threes, Lintz landed four —and was 8-of-16 from inside the arc, and 4-of-7 outside of it.

He splashed a pair of threes in the opening period as part of 12 points, meshed his 4-of-5 free throws in the second stanza towards another six, and then added 11 points in the third —as the Mohawks pulled away from 15-14 and 30-28 quarter-end leads to advantages of seven points twice (35-28 and 44-37).

Lintz was coming off a 25-point output against South Webster, and indeed backed it up with his 32-point production against the Indians.

He did commit eight turnovers, but led the Mohawks in rebounds with seven —having the ball in his hands the overwhelming majority of the time.

In fact, all 32 came in the first three cantos and the opening minute of the fourth frame —for his only points then were a three-ball that made it 47-45 Northwest.

“Games like this, you want your best players to play and play well, and Connor did that again for us,” said Scarberry. “Down the stretch, our seniors played well, our experience played well. It came down to execution at the end. I thought our motion offense gave them fits because we move well without the ball.”

Especially Bolin, who netted nine points —a pair of second-quarter foul shots and one basket, followed by two field goals in the fourth.

None was bigger, of course, than his old-fashioned three-point play with a minute and 13 tics to go.

“We’re good at running that motion offense. We went back to that, and Tanner made some great backcuts on it. We ran a little pick and roll off that and he got a nice bucket there,” said Scarberry, of Bolin. “We got him going a little bit along with Connor, he passes the ball well and he made good decisions at the end of the game.”

Northwest senior Tanner Bolin (12) launches a shot during the Mohawks’ non-league boys basketball game against Valley last Tuesday night at Valley High School.

Courtesy of Guy Queen

Both Bolin and Logan Wolfenbarker, who added eight points including a first-quarter three and a third-quarter and-one, pulled down eight rebounds apiece.

The Mohawks shot 50-percent (14-of-28) from inside the three-point line and 43-percent (6-of-13) outside of it, as Caleb Lewis landed a second-quarter trey — and Jenkins chipped in a fourth-quarter deuce.

Northwest was 8-of-11 at the free-throw line, as Jenkins uncharacteristically missed his two with 6.6 seconds left — but that was a difficult spot to be in.

It didn’t hurt the Mohawks in the end, as Copley was just off the mark with his game-winner.

The Indians answered the initial mini-Mohawk run with one of their own —nine unanswered in the third to be exact, to take a 37-35 lead with 3:55 remaining in the period.

Aside from Brenden Vice’s only basket, Copley converted the other seven points of the run —part of his 10 for the third, following a nine-point first quarter and another 10-point second.

Valley junior Brenden Vice (21) shoots over Northwest senior Tanner Bolin (12) during their non-league boys basketball game at Valley High School.

Courtesy of Guy Queen

But, just as soon as the Indians answered, the Mohawks did so with nine unanswered of their own.

“We came out in the second half with that zone (defense), just to try to keep them on their heels. It worked for a while, but then they hit a couple of shots and a transition bucket and we had to switch back out of it to man-to-man,” said Tackett.

Still, it was 44-37 Northwest with 1:39 to play in the third —as a 13-3 Valley rally gave the Indians their largest lead (50-47) with only 4:03 to play.

That’s when Jenkins (3:30 left) and Bolin (2:20) both scored within a minute and 10 seconds of each other for a 51-50 Northwest edge, as Copley converted his fourth-period freebies at the two-minute mark —giving the Indians their final advantage.

That set the stage for Bolin’s key basket, a couple Copley chances, Valley fouling the Mohawks to send them to the charity stripe, and Copley’s last-chance look as the red light went off.

The Indians shot 14-of-32 from two (43-percent) and 5-of-15 (33-percent) from three, as Chase Davis dropped in three trifectas for the Indians en route to 11 points —including a pair in the first 1:45 of the fourth.

“For it to come down to a one-possession game shooting a buzzer-beater, I think that is proof to how hard our kids worked and how hard they played,” said Tackett. “We’re getting better and hopefully we’ll learn from this game. Just proud of how hard we battled and our effort tonight.”

The Indians indeed get an “A” for effort, but the Mohawks get a Christmas gift of sorts —a rivalry win on Valley’s Reservation.

“We’re happy with this one, man,” said Scarberry. “A win in a rivalry game.”

* * *

Northwest 15 15 14 10— 54

Valley 14 14 12 10– 52

NORTHWEST 54 (6-1)

Connor Lintz 12 4-5 32, Caleb Lewis 1 0-0 3, Ethan Crabtree 0 0-0 0, Jay Jenkins 1 0-2 2, Tanner Bolin 3 3-3 9, Logan Wolfenbarker 3 1-1 8, Jaxon Powell 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 20 8-11 54; Three-point goals: 6 (Connor Lintz 4, Caleb Lewis and Logan Wolfenbarker 1 apiece)

VALLEY 52 (2-4)

Chase Davis 4 0-1 11, Christian Copen 1 0-0 2, Parker Lute 0 0-0 0, Blake Lundy 0 0-0 0, Jace Copley 13 7-9 35, Brenden Vice 1 2-2 4, Jaylen Bender 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 19 9-12 52; Three-point goals: 5 (Chase Davis 3, Jace Copley 2)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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