LUCASVILLE — Four in a row and six of seven. It’s safe to say Waverly is on a tear.
The Tigers, who have had their struggles this year in conference play, got a key road win Thursday night in a 52-48 overtime decision at Valley.
Earlier in the season, the Indians traveled to Waverly and handed the Tigers (10-5, 5-5 SOC II) a 59-41 loss. From that factoid, you can infer how much Thursday’s win meant to coach John Bonifield’s team.
“It’s huge. We’re playing pretty good basketball,” Bonifield said. “We knew this was going to be a tough one to win. Coming on the road … I thought this was the most grit and toughness we’ve shown all year long. I think that’s a testament to the direction we’re headed. But we’re going to keep coming in and grinding. I’m happy with how we played tonight.”
The game took on a tournament-like atmosphere … physical, a sense of urgency on both sides and down to the wire. The physicality is what Bonifield noted as helpful down the stretch for his team … after all, in Division II, Waverly could match up with a number of bullies.
“We talked about controlling what we can control,” Bonifield said. “We wanted to keep grinding, keep battling and keep being aggressive. So I told them to keep being aggressive and playing through contact. I thought we did a good job of that tonight. It was a sectional tournament feel. But we think that’s good for our girls. In our sectional, it’s going to be physical.”
Leading Waverly’s charge was undoubtedly Kami Knight, Zoiee Smith and Paige Carter.
Knight had a game-high 18 points, Smith stuffed a balanced stat sheet as usual and Carter was relentless cleaning the glass. Combined, the trio scored 43 of the team’s 52 points.
“Kami was getting to the basket a lot tonight. She was slashing really well,” Bonifield said. “I can’t rave enough about Paige and the physicality she brings to our team. Even though she’s undersized, she’s going to give 110 percent. And Zoiee is our leader. We expect that out of her. We’re proud of the whole group tonight. It’s great to get a road win in the SOC.”
Tale of the tape
Carter got the night’s scoring started with 6:54 left in the first quarter before Zoiee Smith capped a 10-3 game-opening run with two free throws at the 3:47 mark. After Valley took a timeout, the Indians (8-8, 5-6 SOC II) fought back as Bre Call and Karsyn Conaway narrowed the gap to 14-9 after one.
In the second, Valley’s momentum continued to get a boost from Call and Conaway, as well as Brooklyn Buckle, who gave her team its first lead 17-16 with 5:22 to play. The Tigers, however, regained the lead thanks to a three-point play from Knight with 1:55 left before taking a 26-25 edge into halftime.
After the break, the nip and tuck style of play continued. Valley went on a quick 4-0 run to take a 29-26 lead before Carter put the Tigers back on top, 33-32, with 36 seconds left to play in the third. Carter scored again to make it 35-32 before Waverly took a 37-34 lead into the fourth.
With 4:30 left in the final eight-minute period, Call tied the game 42-42 with a 3-point field goal. That led to the two teams trading baskets and free throws down the stretch before the game headed into overtime at 46-46.
In the extra four-minute time frame, Conaway gave the Indians a 48-46 lead with 3:35 to go. But her score was answered by a 6-0 run from the Tigers — one that included a bucket from Smith and 4-of-6 shooting from the free throw line via Knight and Smith.
Kami Knight led the Tigers with 18 points while Carter added 13 points and 14 rebounds. Smith finished the night with 12 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Carli Knight had five points and eight rebounds.
Valley was led by Conaway, who scored 16 points and added four assists. Buckle added 11 points while Call finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Kaity Howard also chipped in, scoring four points and grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds.
What’s on tap
Valley gets back to action Saturday, taking a trip to Frankfort Adena, while the Tigers travel to Hillsboro for a non-conference matchup Monday.
“We have to keep working hard and moving the ball,” Kami Knight said. “Recently in games, we’ve been moving the ball. It’s given us opportunities to shoot the ball more and play as a team. That’s what we try to do … play as a team.”
Waverly: 14-12-11-9 (6) — 52
Valley: 9-16-9-12 (2) — 48
Waverly: 17-55 FG, 18-33 FT, 0-9 3pt. Scoring: K. Knight 18, Carter 13, Smith 12, C. Knight 5, Collett 3, Brown 1.
Valley: 21-59 FG, 2-14 FT, 4-22 3pt. (Conaway 3). Scoring: Conaway 16, Buckle 11, Call 9, Howard 4, Day 4, Hettinger 2, Gilliland 2.
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @dw1509.