LUCASVILLE – Coming off their most successful season since 2014, the 2019-20 Valley Indians are hoping to build off last season successes under second-year head coach Eric Horton.
Following the graduation of four seniors (Andrew Shope, Tanner Cunningham, Tyler Mitchell, and Koltan Bauer), Valley will be lead by seniors Kayden Mollette and Mason Zaler, two of their key pieces in their 9-15 season (5-9 SOC II) a year ago which culminated in a sectional title in an upset win over top-seeded Eastern Brown and the school’s first trip to the Division III district tournament at the Convocation Center in Athens since 2014.
“Kayden Mollette and Mason Zaler both started every game last year; they’ve been through a lot in their four years and look to be good senior leaders for us this year,” Horton said ahead of the Indians season. “Outside of those two, we have a bunch of inexperienced players. Due to that, we are working to figure out roles and lineups that work. As we get farther into the preseason and get some scrimmages played, we will start to see how the players react to situations. Last season we took a major step forward for the program in having the tournament success we had. Our players got a taste of the district tournament last year and they are wanting to get back again this year.”
Regardless of who sees times on the court this season for Horton’s group, one thing is for certain: being able to play defense at a high level is more than key in Horton’s system.
In their three games during last postseason’s run to the Convo, Valley limited their opponents to just 44.3 points per game before falling to six-seed Alexander in the district semifinals.
“Regardless of our lineups, we are going to play good, fundamental, physical defense,” Horton said. “If we can get our defense working early, that will help our offense until we get an offensive identity.”
Juniors Dylan Ellis, Jacob Greathouse, Jared Gahm, Nick Mowery, and Breckon Williams, sophomore Bryce Stuart, and freshmen George Arnett, Ty Perkins, and Carter Nickel round out the Indians varsity roster for the coming year.
In addition to their usual SOC II slate, non-league bouts against Piketon, Adena, Chesapeake, Paint Valley, Clay, and North Adams round out the Indians 2019-20 schedule.
“We had four teams in our conference win a sectional championship and get into the district tournament last season,” Horton said. “Eastern coming into the conference with a good basketball tradition makes the entire conference stronger. I think we’re capable of beating every team in our conference, but every team is also capable of beating us. If we do not come ready to play each night, then we more than have a chance to lose. That grind of playing quality teams every single night will only help to prepare us for the tournament. Looking at the success of the SOC in tournament play the last couple of years shows just how competitive of a conference we have top to bottom.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved