MINFORD — As has been evident across America, the three-point shot is growing into a phenomenon that is taking the country by storm now more than ever before.
On Tuesday evening, the Minford Falcons’ and Valley Indians’ boys basketball programs showed off the best qualities of that shot by using a nice blend of excellent ball movement and fast-paced play en route to combining for 15 three-pointers in a spirited SOC II Conference and rivalry matchup between the two programs.
However, when the dust settled from the long-range bombs, it was Minford who emerged out in front as the Falcons, behind 10 third-quarter points from Darius Jordan and 12 second-half points from Breydan Tilley, pulled away from ties of 35-35, 37-37, and 39-39 to ultimately claim a 67-55 victory over the Indians on its home floor.
For Josh Shoemaker, Minford’s positive result — and its 11 triples that were spread across four different players — was a result of the ball movement that the Falcons displayed throughout.
“In the first half, and especially in the first quarter, we really moved the ball well,” Shoemaker said. “Almost all of our threes were off of assists tonight. Then, when Valley went to their zone defensive looks, we were able to find Breydan Tilley on three possessions there to put the game away. We did a good job of moving the ball around, being patient, and working to get open looks.”
As for A.J. Phillips, it was a tale of two different halves
“It was two different halves,” Phillips said. “We moved the ball really well in the first half and got the shots that we were talking about. In the second half, we got stagnant on offense, not only with the basketball, but without it as well. We didn’t move the ball really well, we didn’t move off the ball really well, and the ball movement, in general, just slowed down. We started forcing shots and getting shots we weren’t used to taking.”
In the opening quarter of play, Cameron Dalton wasted no time getting the three-point barrage started. The junior stretch forward ultimately knocked down a pair of threes in back-to-back possessions to give Minford the lead as the Falcons took an early 7-0 lead just two-and-a-half minutes into the contest, then, following a creative and-one finish from Kelton Kelley, combined his efforts with Jordan and Nathan McCormick later on in the quarter as the trio combined for three treys that stretched the Falcons’ lead to 21-14 at the end of the frame. Dalton ultimately finished with 13 points in the contest.
“Cameron does so many other things, especially with his defensive and rebounding abilities, that really helps our team,” Shoemaker said. “He had really been frustrated with how he shot the ball, and he really came out and hit the big threes that set the tone for the game.”
However, if Valley was facing any sort of a deficit, one couldn’t tell by the way that Brady Lykins attacked the basket. The wing, who, like Dalton, scored 10 points in the opening frame, continued his barrage by adding seven additional points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer that gave Valley a 26-24 advantage with 6:58 to play in the opening half. Lykins ultimately finished with a game-high 23 points in the contest.
“That’s something that we know that Brady can do,” Phillips said. “The biggest thing is taking the right shots. On our dribble drive kicks, the ball’s got to come from inside-out, and when he does that, he’s a very good shooter.”
“(Lykins) had that killer mentality,” Shoemaker said. “Every time he caught it, he was going right at us. Hat’s off to him. He really filled it up tonight.”
When Minford answered right back with a pair of free throws from Elijah Craft and a bucket from Bryson Ashley, Valley’s Tanner Cunningham showed off his athletic ability — and a tough motor — near the basket. In three offensive possessions, Cunningham nailed a pair of free throws after being fouled, pulled up from eight feet and banked a runner off of the glass through contact — hitting the ensuing free throw in the process — and scored again from the left block to cap off a personal 7-0 run by the junior, which put Valley up 33-28 at halftime.
“That’s a performance that we really needed to see out of Tanner,” Phillips said. “He’s done his share of rebounding and dirty work. Last night, he was willing to get dirty, and he played great defensively. We got a stat that had him with six rebounds. I’m not sure how true that is, but six rebounds, as a two-year starter, is his highest, and that’s something that we’ve been harping on him to work on. He did an excellent job (on Tuesday) and brought a great attitude to the table. It really showed throughout the game.”
“Give Valley credit,” Shoemaker said. “They really focused on some of our weaknesses and exploited them. We did a terrible job of getting back in defensive transition. They really battled back to take the lead there at halftime.”
In the third quarter of action, both units showed no quit or give-up as Valley and Minford traded the lead eight times over the course of the quarter.
But as the game got tighter, Jordan’s effectiveness at the point guard position proved to be the difference.
In less than four minutes, the sophomore’s and-one finish at the rim, a pair of layups, and yet another three-pointer had the Falcons back in control, with the latter pair of shots capping off a personal 5-0 run that ultimately gave Minford a 44-39 lead with 4:04 to play in the third quarter. Jordan, like Dalton, finished with 13 points himself.
“At halftime, we just had to focus and correct the defensive miscues that were present in the second quarter,” Shoemaker said. “Offensively, we have to try to attack. We don’t just want to be a jump-shooting team. Darius got the and-one to get us going, and Breydan started attacking. It just got contagious. Darius did a great job of getting to the rim and producing with either a score or a kick-out to an open shooter for a three-point shot.”
As Jordan got into the paint, the space on the floor opened up for Tilley, who used his deft shooting ability to keep Valley honest.
When the Indians closed to within 44-43 on a basket from Cayton Ruby, Tilley knocked in a three from the right corner to ultimately push the Falcons out to a 48-44 advantage at the end of the quarter. The senior then followed up his efforts by draining two additional three-point baskets off of dribble penetration — one from the right wing and one from the right corner — to put Minford ahead 54-44 just over one minute into the fourth quarter. Valley closed the lead to 57-51 behind an and-one from Ruby, but got no closer as Minford sealed the deal from that point forward.
“The kids did a good job,” Shoemaker said. “We tried to move Breydan to the corner to run the baseline and be a shooter, and the kids did a good job of finding him. He put us on his back and hit a big shot there.”
“I’m proud of our effort,” Phillips said despite the defeat. “It lasted for 32 minutes (on Tuesday), and that kept us in the ballgame late. However, at some point, we’ve got to put effort with smarts, finish a ballgame, and win one.”
With the victory, Minford improved to 3-4 and 2-2 in SOC II action. The Falcons will continue SOC II play with a bout at Waverly on Friday evening.
“It was good that we had a lead, were down, and came back to have a good second half,” Shoemaker said of the qualities that shined in his eyes on Tuesday. “We’ve got to continue to get better. It was our first home game, and it was also Homecoming. There were a lot of things on our plate tonight. Hat’s off to Valley and (A.J.) Phillips. I thought that they came out, matched our intensity, and played a tough basketball game.”
As for Valley, the Indians, who are 0-5 overall and in the league, will go to McDermott to take on Northwest (2-5, 0-5 SOC II) on Friday evening in what is expected to be a hard-fought game between two rivals.
“Northwest is playing great right now,” Phillips said. “They’ve been in every ballgame. (Jason) Smith does an excellent job out there getting them prepared. We’re going to have to play for 32 minutes. We’re going to have to bring effort and we’re going to have to play smart for 32 minutes.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT