LUCASVILLE — Down by six points entering the fourth quarter, the Minford Falcons knew their season was on the line. The defending SOC champions were in a must win situation against the Valley Indians in order to clinch a share of the title again this year, something Valley had done on Monday. They dug in defensively, limiting Valley to four points during the quarter while putting up 13 themselves. Brandon Rowe hit the dagger 3-point shot to give them the lead with 1:30 left in the ballgame. Valley wouldn’t score again and Minford went on to win by a score of 58-55.
With a capacity crowd, Friday night’s ballgame truly had a playoff atmosphere. Bryan Rolfe electrified the home crowd early with a resounding block on Brandon Rowe. Minford exceled in their half court sets throughout the night, while Valley looked their best when they were running in transition. Rolfe got the best of the Falcons early, putting up 14 first-half points.
With Rolfe hot, the Minford defense looked to limit his drives. In doing so, that left Valley shooters wide open for shots. Blake Howard had nine of his eleven in the first half as he hit three early treys. Meanwhile, Minford’s Rowe was held scoreless until midway through the second. While down five points Minford managed to steal some momentum coming into halftime as Dillion Shepard hit a buzzer beater in the post to cut it to 29-26.
Coming out of the break Rolfe and Aaron Linne hit back to back three pointers and eventually opened up a 10 point lead on the Falcons. Every time Minford tried to make a run the Indians countered. With Blake Howard playing tenacious man to man defense against Rowe much of the night Minford had to look elsewhere for some scoring. Jared Alley had 14 along with Rowe to lead the Falcons in scoring and Trey Kelley added 11. Shepard managed to hit another buzz beater for the Falcons at the end of three, once again stealing momentum and cutting the Valley lead.
Minford managed to slowly and consistently wear down Valley in the fourth. Rowe hit what would become the game winning three point bucket, but the game was iced by Freshman Cameron Dalton at the free throw line. The win stops a bit of a skid by the Falcons, who had recently lost to both Wheelersburg and Oak Hill in SOC play.
Minford goes on to play Crooksville in the first round of tournament play. The game will be held at Jackson high school Tuesday, at 8:00 p.m.
Head Coach Josh Shoemaker was elated with his team’s performance on the night and was proud of their third conference title in four years.
“This a tribute to the kids tonight,” said Shoemaker. “All the credit goes to them. They were down nine and ten points at multiple times throughout the game but battled back. Our three seniors were huge tonight. Jared Alley seven fourth quarter points, Trey Kelley held Rolfe scoreless in the fourth, and Rowe gave us tremendous leadership all game long. It was a tough win, it always is against Valley. It was great to put our seniors out with this SOC title. This is three out of four now for the senior class.
“Tomorrow we may be a bit drained after tonight’s victory, but I think Warren will prepare us for the tournament being a top tier division two team. The kids were extremely focused tonight, they led the huddle and they played hard. I expect them to keep that effort tomorrow.”
The Valley Indians still clinch a share of the SOC title despite the loss. Their only two conference losses of the year came against Minford in two classic rivalry games between the two old foes. They will go on to face the winner of Zane Trace and Southeastern next Friday at Waverly High School. Tip off for that game is 6:00 p.m.
“I’m not sure what happened in the fourth,” Indians head coach Scott Rolfe said. “We made a big run in the third and we only managed to score four points while giving up thirteen the next. We wanted to be patient on offense but we weren’t very disciplined in the last three minutes. It cost us tonight.
“We could very well see them again in the tournament. In both games we’ve played we’ve had opportunities to win. Hats off to their seniors tonight. Brandon, Trey, and Jared Alley played hard tonight. It’s really hard to prepare for a team when they are doing things you haven’t seen them do before. They played a great game. It came down to the last three minutes and they wanted it more defensively than we did. They won a share of the title tonight.”
Valley 16 13 22 4 — 55
Minford 12 14 19 13 — 58
Valley: Rolfe 25, Howard 11, Wolford 6, Romenello 6, Linne 5, Brewer 2
Minford: Rowe 14, Alley 14, Kelley 11, Dalton 9, Gullett 5, Shepard 5
Reach Derrick Parker at email@example.com or on twitter @DC__Parker