McDERMOTT — Wednesday night’s sectional semifinal win over Miller was new territory for the Valley Indians — in more ways than one.
In addition to snapping a four-game losing skid, their 66 points scored is a season-high for this year’s Indians and is the first time this season Valley has broke the 60-point mark in regulation.
Their 66-53 win at Northwest High School over the No. 21-seeded Falcons also happens to be the first postseason win for No. 12-seed Valley as a Division IV program since at least 1998 after competing at the Division III level during that stretch (according to OHSAA website).
And, to top it all, seniors Mason Zaler and Kayden Mollette are the lone two players on this season’s Indians’ roster with any legitimate postseason playing experience.
Both senior Indians were also starters on last season’s sectional championship team, which upset No. 2-seed Eastern Brown.
The five other rotation pieces Valley used in Wednesday’s win, including sophomore Brice Stuart who scored a season-high 20 points, were brand new to the idea of what it takes to win a postseason game — a scary thought to the potential opponents of coach Eric Horton’s group.
“Outside of Mason (Zaler) and Kayden (Mollette), no one has any tournament experience for us,” Horton said, following the 13-point win over Miller. “We’ve played 22 games and our other kids have played a lot for us, but they haven’t played in this type of a game. Wasn’t too disappointed with not getting a bye into the sectional finals. I thought for our young kids it would be good to play in a game like this.”
The defining stretch in Valley’s 13-point win was the latter portion of the second quarter and the first portion of the third. During that period, Valley turned a 21-21 tie into a 30-24 halftime lead and a 39-24 lead after Zaler’s second field goal of the night capped an 18-3 run.
After trading punches with Miller during the first 10 minutes, Valley was able to limit the Falcons to just nine second-quarter points, while extending its lead to as many as 17.
Miller senior — and the school’s all-time leading scorer — Colby Bartley scored a game-high 33 points on 11-made field goals and eight-for-13 free-throw shooting.
“In the first half we were a little tight, I think nerves had something to do with it,” Horton said. “They hit a couple of threes so they were able to relax. Second half we came out and got some easy scores off the bat, had the halftime to calm ourselves down, relax, and realize we’re just playing basketball.”
Stuart led his team’s season-high point total with his 20-point performance, as he and Mollette — the Indians’ leading scorer during the regular season — were the lone two Valley players to score in double figures.
Each of the seven Valley players which saw time on the court scored at least five points — including Ty Perkins’ nine with two-made corner threes, Jared Gahm’s eight on four-made field goals, George Arnett and Zaler’s six apiece, and Jacob Greathouse’s five.
“I thought we were executing in the first half, we just couldn’t get anything to go in,” Horton said, following his team’s highest scoring outing this season. “Once it started going in, everyone started shooting well. I’ve been preaching to them for weeks that we have to shoot the ball with a lot of confidence. Tonight was the first time I didn’t see any second-guessing when they took good shots; they were expecting it to go in. When you shoot with that confidence, the ball tends to go your way and have that snowball effect.”
With their first postseason win as a Division IV program since at least 1998, the Indians now advance to next week’s sectional final versus Ironton St. Joseph.
“We know that we’re going to have to come in here next week and play our best basketball game,” Horton said, looking ahead to their sectional final. “We get a week to prepare for them, which is about as long as we’ve had to prepare for a team all year. That week of preparation will really help us out and being as young as we are, I really thought tonight’s game was a big help moving forward.”
Valley and Ironton St. Joe will tip at 6:15 p.m. in their sectional final — on Wednesday, Feb. 26 back at Northwest High School.
Miller 15 9 12 17 — 53
Valley 17 13 19 17 — 66
MILLER 53 (5-17)
Kylan McClain 3 1-2 8, Tre McCoy 3 0-0 7, Steven Willison 2 0-0 5, Clay Brown 0 0-0 0, Colby Bartley 11 8-13 33, Quin McCabe 0 0-0 0, Sam Rutter 0 0-0 0, Blayton Cox 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 19 9-15 53; Three-point field goals: 6 (Colby Bartley 3, Steven Willison, Tre McCoy and Kylan McClain 1 apiece)
VALLEY 66 (9-14)
George Arnett 3 0-0 6, Ty Perkins 3 1-2 9, Kayden Mollette 4 1-5 12, Jared Gahm 4 0-0 8, Jacob Greathouse 2 1-2 5, Bryce Stuart 7 6-8 20, Mason Zaler 3 0-2 6; TOTALS: 26 9-19 66; Three-point field goals: 5 (Kayden Mollette 3, Ty Perkins 2)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved