WEST PORTSMOUTH —Moving the basketball effectively usually results in positive outcomes, more times than not.
On nearly every offensive possession during its contest with the Valley Indians, the West Senators’ basketball program got all five of its players touching the orange during the vast majority of its offensive possessions — and as a result, obtained a key SOC II conference victory to open up the 2017 campaign.
LT Maynard’s 15 points, 13 points each from Jordan Frasure and Brandon Moore, and a well-balanced offensive attack that committed just two offensive turnovers in the first half allowed West to go on a 21-2 run during the opening set of stanzas en route to a 60-48 victory over Valley on Tuesday evening in West Portsmouth.
And for West head coach Bill Hafer, the aforementioned ball movement is exactly what he wants to see out of his team.
“That’s our goal,” Hafer said. “We’re not trying to necessarily feature one player. We want to move the ball around and find the open man. We’ll be successful following that blueprint. If I could draw it up, that’s the way that I would do it. Sharing the basketball is our goal.”
As for AJ Phillips, the first-year head coach believes that his unit simply didn’t execute the gameplan that was there.
“We try to get all of our offense going out in transition, and we try to go small to do that,” Phillips said. “For some reason, we weren’t clicking tonight. We didn’t get out and go. We just didn’t run our lanes, and we didn’t advance the basketball. During the times that we did, we looked pretty good. We got the shots that we wanted and we made our runs toward the rim. We’re just not a good jumpball shooting team, and that’s one thing that we’ve got to understand. We need to get to the rim more and knock down shots when we’re able to.”
Initially, however, Valley was doing just that. Two impressive low-post buckets from Mason Zaler, along with two long-distance connections from Tanner Cunningham and Kayden Mollette, allowed the Indians to quickly jump out to a 10-6 advantage early on in the quarter.
But after answering a Frasure bucket with a basket from Brady Lykins to push the lead back up to a 12-8 margin, the Senators began to impose their will during the course of the contest as Frasure and Moore got going. In fact, the pair scored 10 of the last 12 points for West and 10 of the last 14 points in the quarter to push the Senators out to a 20-14 first-quarter advantage.
“Giving up 20 points in a quarter is not something that we can do,” Phillips said. “That killed us and put us behind the eight-ball at the beginning of the game, and we were digging and crawling from there.”
Hafer, who has been high on both Frasure and Moore throughout the preseason, was especially proud of Moore for his 13-point outing.
“I’m proud of him,” Hafer said. “I didn’t realize it was that many. He’s just got to get some confidence, and he’ll be fine. As long as Brandon knows he can play, he can play. He’s a good one.”
In the second quarter, the bench — led by Jesse Johnson and Josh Berry — took over the scoring load. The gritty play of Berry in all facets, the smooth-as-a-feather jumper that Johnson displayed, and the excellent team defense that the Senators employed allowed West to jump out to a 9-0 run to begin the second quarter as West held Valley without a single point over the first 3:09 of the quarter.
“West did an excellent job of playing low-post defense, and they pressured us a lot on the wings,” Phillips said. “They didn’t make the passes to the post available. We struggled a little bit getting the ball inside, and that’s our fault for not handling the pressure well.”
Johnson’s nine first-half points, as a matter of fact, led the team, while Berry — who suffered a broken collarbone during West’s run to the second round of the Division V playoffs — looked healthy and crisp in his own eight-point output during the affair as the Senators jumped out to a 33-20 halftime advantage.
“Josh is always the smartest player on the floor,” Hafer said. “That’s what he does. He’s really good at finding angles, using his strength to finish, and building his overall body up. He’s not very tall, but he’s strong. Jesse’s a scorer. He can put the ball on the rim, he has a good jumpshot, he has a good pullup, and he can finish in the paint. We’ve got some options there.”
Valley, however, kept fighting. Behind the shooting of Andrew Shope, who scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the second half, the Indians were able to cut an 18-point deficit down to 12 following a pair of free throws from Mollette to begin the fourth quarter of play.
“Andrew took the shots that were available,” Phillips said. “He didn’t try to create anything or take any ill-advised shots. He knocked down the kickouts, went into the lane a couple of times, and got fouled. He did a nice job of doing it inside the offense. That’s when our shots need to come, and that’s something that we need to realize.”
However, the production of Frasure and Maynard — the team’s two returning starters — proved to be too much for Valley to overcome. The pair, in fact, did what upperclassmen are supposed to do in closing minutes by taking charge and scoring 10 of the Senators’ final 11 tallies en route to closing the game out.
“We’re counting on LT and Jordan to lead this basketball team,” Hafer said. “We want the ball in their hands, but they’re willing to pass the ball, too. We’re trying to be a control team. That’s our goal.”
With the victory behind them, West will turn its attention to Northwest, another SOC II foe on Friday evening. The pair will duke it out in McDermott in what should be an exciting rivalry affair.
“If we move the ball the way that we did tonight,” Hafer said, “and play helpside defense like we did, we’re going to be okay.”
As for Valley, the Indians, who now sit at 0-1 on the year, will certainly be facing a tough test on Friday evening when the SOC II-favored Oaks of Oak Hill come to Lucasville.
However, Phillips believes that Valley can get the ball rolling as long as the Indians stay true to the offensive gameplan.
“We believe that we do, and we can get that while still getting points from within the offense,” Phillips said. “Taking iffy shots is not going to help us out. We’ve got to have post-feed kickouts or dribble penetration kickouts in order to find wide-open shooters. We’re not a team that can elevate and shoot effectively above people.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT