McDERMOTT — For the Valley Indians, Wednesday’s sectional final loss to Ironton St. Joe happened to be a case of too little, too late.
Trailing the No. 5-seed Flyers by a 41-23 halftime margin, No. 12-seed Valley rallied and stepped up defensively in the second half — before ultimately falling 59-56 in a Division IV sectional final.
This was the first season in which Valley has competed as a Division IV program in boys basketball, falling just short of its second consecutive sectional championship under second-year coach Eric Horton.
“We’re a young team. Unfortunately for us, the first half tonight we looked like a young team,” Horton said, following the three-point loss. “I think it took our guys a half to adjust, calm their nerves. When you’re playing in the sectional finals against a team as good as St. Joe is, you can’t give them two quarters. I took three early timeouts to calm us down and keep us in it, it just kept snowballing.”
Although they limited the Flyers to just five third quarter points, the Indians scored just eight points of their own in the third on three-made field goals.
In fact, Valley outscored Ironton St. Joe 25-13 in the final period to bring their final deficit to three when the final buzzer sounded.
A Ty Perkins’ three cut the Flyers lead to 53-52 before St. Joe seniors Ryan Payne and Zach Roach connected on back-to-back field goals, extending their lead back to two possessions at 57-52.
Holding your opponent to just 18 second-half points is more times than not what it takes to complete a second-half comeback such as the one Valley attempted.
Unless, of course, the hole is too deep to climb out of.
Despite cutting the Flyers’ lead to one late in the game, Valley didn’t have a lead in its season-ending defeat after its early 8-6 advantage following a Mason Zaler and-one.
Zaler’s and-one would be the final basket the Indians would score before allowing a 23-4 run by the 4:52 mark of the second quarter.
“Second half I thought we played exceptional,” Horton said. “I think it’s a different ballgame if we play the first two quarters like we did the last two. But that’s tournament basketball.”
Horton and the Indians’ program must say farewell to seniors Zaler and Kayden Mollette following their season-ending loss to Ironton St. Joe — a duo that the Indians’ coach admits will be more-than-tough to replace.
“Kayden doesn’t come out. He’s played point guard the last two years, I can probably count on two hands the games he hasn’t played 32 minutes for us. He’s our point guard, our captain, one of our leaders — you don’t replace someone as stable as he’s been the last two seasons. Mason’s a big body, and you don’t teach kids his size and his ability. That’s going to be a big gap that we’ll have to deal with next year that we didn’t have to this year.”
Valley does, however, return six of its eight players from this season’s rotation — including Bryce Stuart, whose team-high 19 comes just one game after his season-high 20 in its win over Miller.
George Arnett and Ty Perkins, who connected on a combined five-made three pointers as freshmen off the bench, will be back — as will will-be seniors in Jacob Greathouse and Jared Gahm.
“We’ve got five guys coming back that were absolutely playing well and played a lot of minutes for us this season,” Horton said of his returning pieces. “We fit a few more pieces in there next year and let them gel over the summer. We’ll still be young next year, but hopefully we can piece things together and go into next year with a lot of momentum.”
Valley 8 15 8 25 — 56
Ironton St. Joe 16 25 5 13 — 59
VALLEY 56 (9-15)
George Arnett 4 0-0 11, Ty Perkins 2 0-2 6, Carter Nickel 1 0-0 2, Kayden Mollette 2 1-2 7, Jared Gahm 0 0-0 0, Jacob Greathouse 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 6 5-6 19, Mason Zaler 5 1-1 11; TOTALS: 20 7-10 56; Three-point field goals: 9 (George Arnett 3, Ty Perkins, Kayden Mollette and Bryce Stuart 2 apiece)
IRONTON ST. JOE 59 (18-5)
Jackson Rowe 2 0-0 4, Matthew Sheridan 0 0-0 0, Zach Roach 9 1-3 22, Andrew White 0 0-0 0, Ryan Payne 5 1-5 13, J.C. Damron 2 3-6 7, Jared Johnson 3 0-0 6, Jimmy Mahlmeister 3 0-0 7, Max Weber 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 24 5-14 59; Three-point field goals: 5 (Zach Roach 3, Ryan Payne 2, Jimmy Mahlmeister 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved