WAVERLY — Second verse, same as the first.
According to the brackets, Valley’s 58-44 win over Paint Valley in a Division III sectional semifinal Monday night was an upset.
According to a prior regular season matchup between the two, that isn’t the case. Valley, a No. 10 seed, beat the No. 7 seeded Bearcats by a 74-61 final back on Jan. 5.
It was a win where the Indians (8-15) had a 41-18 lead at halftime and ended with nine 3-point field goals. While Valley coach Eric Horton knew imitating that performance was nearly impossible, he also knew that if his kids played solid defense, they had a shot at an “upset.”
“I knew, coming in, we weren’t going to shoot the ball like we did that night,” Horton said. “I knew we had to play defense in a certain way and in a certain style. I thought we really did that and I thought our physicality frustrated them in the half court. So I thought our defense just held on, time and time again. We stopped them from doing some things they wanted to do offensively. I know the brackets say it’s an upset, but in our minds, it isn’t.”
In that prior matchup, Valley’s Mason Zaler had 21 points. Zaler led the Indians with 16 on Monday, and got some help from teammate Tyler Mitchell.
Together, those two helped hold Paint Valley (8-14) to just 19-of-44 shooting inside the arc. Mitchell was also given the task of chasing Paint Valley’s Bryce Newland, a junior who came into the game averaging 14.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Monday, Newland got many second chance opportunities, but had trouble finishing at the rim.
“[Paint Valley] has three kids that are 6-foot-4 and we can’t match up with that,” Horton said. “Mitchell’s 6-foot, I think. But if he’s 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, he’s probably an All-Ohio player. Walking in, I gave him the assignment of guarding [PV’s] best player and he did a good job on Newland.”
Tale of the tape
After Paint Valley’s Hunter Hamlin got the Bearcats on the board first, Valley went on a 5-0 run behind Kayden Mollette, Zaler and Tanner Cunningham. Mitchell scored his first bucket with 38.2 seconds remaining, giving the Indians a 7-4 lead, but Newland hit back-to-back buckets to end the quarter and give the Bearcats an 8-7 lead after one.
Valley started the second on a 7-0 run, taking a 14-8 advantage. The Indians maintained a five-to-seven point lead throughout the entire quarter before Mollette scored and hit an awarded foul shot with 31.8 seconds left, making it 25-16 at the break.
In the third, the Bearcats continued to hang around but never managed to pose a real threat. Valley took leads of 29-21 and 33-25 before taking a 38-29 lead into the fourth.
That nine-point lead quickly turned into double digits and the Indians pulled away from that point on, using transition buckets and an all-around solid defensive effort to do so.
The Indians were paced by both Zaler and Mitchell, who each scored 16 points. Zaler added 15 rebounds to his totals while Andrew Shope added 11 points and four assists.
For the Bearcats, Hamlin ended with 16 points and four rebounds while Newland added 10 points and 16 rebounds. Cordell Grubb also chipped in, scoring nine points.
What’s on tap
Valley advances to No. 2 seeded Eastern Brown in a Division III sectional final at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at Waverly’s Downtown Gym.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” Horton said of his team’s game plan against Eastern Brown. “We’ve been really focused on getting this one because we knew that if we didn’t come in here and play well, our season could end tonight.”
Valley: 8-8-13-15 — 58
Paint Valley: 7-18-13-20 — 44
Valley: 24-45 FG, 8-16 FT, 2-5 3pt., 29 rebounds (Zaler 15), 13 turnovers, 11 assists (Shope 4). Scoring: Zaler 16, Mitchell 16, Shope 11, Fell 5, Cunningham 5, Mollette 5.
Paint Valley: 20-51 FG, 3-8 FT, 1-7 3pt., 36 rebounds (Newland 16), 14 turnovers, 6 assists (Co. Grubb 3). Scoring: Hamlin 16, Newland 10, Co. Grubb 9, Ca. Grubb 5, Bevan 4.