PORTSMOUTH – 32 minutes just wasn’t long enough to decide Friday’s non-league game between Clay and Valley.
Needing four extra minutes to do so, the Valley Indians escaped Clay with a 60-57 overtime win over the Panthers in a tournament-style game with opponents vying for higher seeds in the Division IV district seeding.
In the end, it was Valley who edged Clay by just three in a game that the Panthers had rallied from down double-digits to take a four point lead in the closing stages of regulation.
The Indians, however, forced overtime, and from there took the necessary steps to ensure their road win.
“First half I thought we played well, coming into halftime with that 10-point lead was a good thing,” Valley coach Eric Horton said following the win. “Second half when they came out in that zone, it caused us some problems, made our young kids look how young they are, but that’s the first time that’s happened in December. We take that stretch as a learning experience, able to take from this and move forward and improve on it.”
“Proud of our guys on fighting back, we’re down 10 at half and had three-straight turnovers to start the third quarter, still able to overcome that sluggish start to win the third,” Clay coach ‘Tiny’ Anderson said. “We feel that when we are out scrambling around on defense, that’s when we’re at our best. We have to make free throws and know situations, we have to be able to close out games when we have the lead.”
A balanced effort in the score book helped contribute to the Indians three point overtime road win. By game’s end, at least six Indians had scored at least eight points while five Valley players broke double figures led by seniors Kayden Mollette and Mason Zaler who each finished with 11 points.
Dylan Ellis, George Arnett, and Bryce Stuart each scored 10 for Valley while Carter Nickel scored eight including two-made threes.
“Extremely important,” Horton said of his team’s scoring balance. “It prevents the defense from keying on any one guy. For us, if we see a match-up we like, we try to exploit it. Everyone getting touches on the ball, I thought we did a very good job of that in the first half. Second half we missed some easy shots that we need to make, allowed them to make their run on us.”
Clay used a 12-0 run that stretched the majority of the fourth quarter to take a 51-47 lead late in Friday’s game. Back-to-back Indians field goals from Kayden Mollette and George Arnett tied things at 51-51, sending the game to the overtime period as both teams went scoreless in the final 1:10 of game action.
Clay junior Shaden Malone led all scorers with a game-high 20 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in Friday’s loss. Reece Whitley scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Jaden Jessee scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Evan Woods scored 10 points to lead the Panthers.
“We want to work on finishing games,” Anderson said. “We feel like we are really close to being a good team, once we clean up some things I think we can take that next step. Valley is going to win a lot of games and Coach Horton does a great job, so to take them to overtime is something to build on.”
With the win, Valley improves to 5-4 (3-1 SOC II) while Clay falls to 4-6 (SOC I). Friday’s win for the Indians is their fourth-straight and fifth out of their last six games.
Granted, three teams with loads of returning experience in Piketon, Adena, and Chesapeake started the Indians schedule in which they started the year 0-for-3 in their first three games. Horton accredited that fact and the growing experience of his team during their first nine games as the main reason for their quick turnaround.
“We’ve played nine games,” Horton said. “We have three freshman who are playing significant minutes for us, a sophomore that didn’t play varsity basketball, and another starter that didn’t see varsity minutes last year. It’s just about getting games in, getting that varsity experience before we could start to put things together.”
Three league games start the decade for the Indians in a home game versus West (January 3rd), a road trip to Minford (January 7th), and a home game versus Oak Hill (January 10th), all games which will give the Indians a look at how they stack up in this year’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II race.
“I didn’t like how we responded in that zone, but I did like that we were able to calm down and start playing basketball at the end of the game,” Horton said. “They went up four points and we still we able to get it into overtime. I thought our defense stepped up big time in the last two minutes of regulation and the four minutes of overtime. In a game like that, you have to have those sorts of stops to win.”
Clay will host Symmes Valley next Friday in SOC I play.
Valley 16 19 6 10 (9) – 60
Clay 15 10 12 14 (6) – 57
Valley 60 (5-4, 3-1 SOC II)
George Arnett 5 0-0 10, Ty Perkins 0 0-3 0, Dylan Ellis 4 0-0 10, Carter Nickel 3 0-0 8, Kayden Mollette 4 2-7 11, Jared Gahm 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 5 0-1 10, Mason Zaler 5 1-2 11; TOTALS: 26 3-13 60; Three-point field goals: 5 (Ellis, Nickel 2 apiece, Mollette 1)
Clay 57 (4-6, 3-1 SOC I)
Clay Cottle 0 1-2 1, Shaden Malone 7 6-10 20, Evan Woods 4 0-0 10, Reece Whitley 4 0-0 10, Gage Moore 1 2-4 4, Caden Cline 0 0-0 0, Jaden Jessee 5 0-1 10, Dakota Dodds 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 22 9-16 57; Three-point field goals: 4 (Woods, Whitley 2 apiece)
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