PORTSMOUTH — The difference between Andrew Shope being on the court and Andrew Shope being off the court is a significant one.
Valley’s dynamic senior guard provides a spark when he’s in the lineup but the problem Friday evening was that, for most of the first half, he wasn’t in the lineup.
Shope got into early foul trouble, forcing him to sit next to coach Eric Horton on the bench. While he became a spectator, his team lost the lead and could never recover in a 59-44 loss to South Point at Portsmouth High School in the Wendy’s Classic.
“Andrew is our senior leader. It’s as simple as that,” Horton said. “He was the quarterback on the football team and a lot of the guys played with him, so they look up to him. He already has that leadership quality about him and that translates to the basketball floor. He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and his decision-making is getting better and better. That showed tonight. He goes out with early with fouls and that let [South Point] make their run. Tonight, there was a big difference between Shope being in and Shope being out.”
To be fair, there were other areas where Valley (3-5) struggled — the loss certainly didn’t come about solely based on Shope’s absence. Another factor was the 19 turnovers the Indians committed, seemingly shooting themselves in the feet at will.
“A lot of that credit goes to South Point. Their kids are lightning fast,” Horton said. “Anytime that you’re playing as quick as they are, you’re going to turn it over a few more times than what you normally do. But for us, we couldn’t seem to get the guys in right spots. Sometimes we were just a step slow. So we’ve got to get back into practice and drill some of those things that we do. When we can do that, those things will become reactionary. But we haven’t gotten to that point.”
South Point (2-3) also won the rebounding battle by a 35-21 margin. That created second chance opportunities to score — opportunities the Pointers took advantage of — and kept Valley from getting itself back into the ballgame late.
“We’ve struggled at times with our rebounding,” Horton said. “It’s something that hasn’t been ingrained in our kids, making sure they create contact, box out and secure the ball. It’s not that it hasn’t been preached to them. It’s just … again, we have that disconnect to where we revert back to bad habits. A lot of that comes with repetition and it’s something we constantly work on.”
Tale of the tape
Behind Mason Zaler and Kayden Mollette, the Indians darted out to an early 7-1 lead. But that edge slowly shrunk as the first half continued as South Point (2-3) used the combination of Chance Gunther and Austin Webb to frustrate the Indians’ defense.
After heading into the second quarter leading 13-8, Valley allowed the Pointers to go on an 11-5 run to take a 19-18 lead with 3:24 left in the second quarter. By halftime, that advantage had swelled to nine at 27-19.
When Shope returned to the lineup, the Indians went on a 17-11 run, cutting the deficit to just three at 40-37 with 1:30 left in the third.
But that’s when Valley misfired at the rim, turned the ball over and failed to get an offensive rebound on three straight possessions. In effect, the Pointers took advantage of the Indians’ miscues, building up a 49-41 lead in the fourth and hitting their foul shots down the stretch.
Mollette and Tanner Cunningham both finished with 11 points while Cunningham added four rebounds and four assists to his stat line. Shope ended the night with eight points and three rebounds and Zaler finished with five points and six boards.
For South Point, Gunther led all scorers with 23 points while Webb ended the day with 17 points and seven rebounds. Nakyan Turner also chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds.
What’s on tap
The Indians get right back to action, traveling to Chesapeake Saturday evening.
“Quick turnaround,” Horton said. “It seems like everytime we get a little bit of a break, we turn around and play back-to-back games. Tonight’s an example of that. Chesapeake does a really good job. If we don’t come ready to play, we’ll have a long ride back home.”
Valley: 13-5-9-17 — 44
South Point: 8-19-15-17 — 59
Valley: 17-41 FG, 7-10 FT, 3-12 3pt. (Cunningham 2), 21 rebounds (Zaler 6), 19 turnovers, 8 assists (Cunningham 4). Scoring: Mollette 11, Cunningham 11, Shope 8, Zaler 5, Clark 4, Mitchell 3.
South Point: 25-53 FG, 6-13 FT, 3-12 3pt. (Gunther 2), 35 rebounds (Turner 8), 15 turnovers, 8 assists (Staggs 3). Scoring: Gunther 23, Webb 19, Turner 8, Blackwell 7, Staggs 4.
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @dw1509.