LUCASVILLE — At age 70, Norm Persin can do without the added stress.
With his Valley Indians playing for the first time on Saturday night in exactly two full weeks, unfortunately following their second coronavirus quarantine of the season, Persin said he was fretting feverishly about his young club’s performance.
“I was worried,” said Persin. “We hadn’t played and our practices have been God-awful. I would say this past week we had four of the worst practices I’ve ever witnessed in my life. No energy, no emotion, and going only 50-percent. So I definitely was worried coming into the game because we hadn’t played for so long. The kids couldn’t do anything anyhow because they were quarantined and then we had the bad weather.”
Truth be told, Persin’s fears lasted about an estimated eight minutes —as his fourth-seeded Indians amounted the opening eight points, locked down the visiting Waterford Wildcats for only a first-quarter field goal, and simply coasted to a 62-40 Division IV sectional championship triumph on ‘The Reservation’.
With the win, Valley raised its record to 11-9 and, more importantly, got back into the full swing of things with its first sectional championship in two years.
The legendary Persin — the state’s active coaching career wins leader and third all-time on the coaching career wins list — is in his 44th season as a head basketball coach, but in his first at Valley.
So his apprehension about his underclassmen-heavy Indians is understood, but by scoring 17 points in the opening, second and closing cantos on Saturday, Valley made sure the 13th-seeded Wildcats would not make the long trip to pull the upset.
Valley dominated the first frame 17-2, then doubled up the Wildcats 17-9 in the last.
Waterford won the second stanza by a single point (18-17), and the two teams tied 11-11 in the third, but the Indians amassed a trio of 20-point (22-2, 24-4 and 26-6) first-half advantages — before withstanding a pair of second-half mini-Waterford runs.
The Wildcats sliced the deficits to 34-24 only a minute and 40 seconds into the third quarter, and to 45-34 only 43 seconds into the fourth following a Jacob Huffman old-fashioned three-point play, but the Indians answered with 11 two-point goals and 6-of-9 free throws over the final 16 minutes to win going away.
In fact, along with a 60-38 lead following Ty Perkins’ old-fashioned three-point play, the Indians’ largest margin was the 62-40 final score.
Afterwards, the youthful Indians celebrated by cutting down the nets, which is something Persin refrained from himself — but was happy for his players.
Those same players which, per Persin, didn’t play liked they had practiced the past week.
“It was a good overall win for our kids. This is something that they needed,” said the coach. “They are building and getting better every time. They are going to be a team of the future, we hope. So by winning a sectional now, that’s a good omen for us. It’s great and it’s been a long time since these kids have had some sustained success in basketball.”
Speaking of the future, the Indians return home —and return to the Division IV district tournament —as they face the 12th-seeded and Cinderella-minded Western Indians on Wednesday night.
In another Saturday sectional championship tilt, Western upset the fifth-seeded Whiteoak Wildcats — thus giving two teams triumphs with the mascot Indians over two squads with the nickname Wildcats.
Waterford’s Wildcats fell to 9-12, as Grant McCutcheon scored the team’s only first-period points —a basket with three minutes remaining.
Valley, in addition to scoring the first eight points prior to McCutcheon’s conversion, scored the next 14 for a 22-2 advantage only 40 seconds into the second quarter.
Jace Copley connected on a three-point bomb for a 14-2 advantage and only 65 seconds remaining in the first — as the Indians got the ball back, held it for the final minute and mastered moves and cuts with its offensive set, which resulted in George Arnett beautifully banging home a buzzer-beating three from the wing.
Another Arnett three from the left wing, this one more wide open than his first, made it 22-2 —and the Indians were off and running.
A lot of the Indians’ points from there occurred in transition, or at the free-throw line as they meshed 10-of-16.
“Our defense was really good early. We had a great first quarter to early second quarter, and then we had a great fourth quarter,” said Persin.
Carter Nickel knocked down a three in the first as well —as six Indians, the top six in the regular rotation in fact, scored and all had at least four points.
Perkins popped a game-high 17 on seven baskets, as Arnett followed with 15 on five field goals —with both making 3-of-5 free throws.
Bryce Stuart scored 10 points on five field goals, as Copley netted nine with two two-pointers and 2-of-2 foul shots in addition to his three.
Nickel netted seven with two fourth-quarter baskets, while Colt Buckle —all in the fourth — finished with a bucket and 2-of-4 freebies.
Waterford also had a half-dozen scorers, as Luke Teters tallied a team-high 13 points on two deuces and all three of the Wildcats’ made treys.
Waterford donned its traditional green jerseys on Saturday night, as now another double-digit seed — Western —will bring its green tribe to “The Reservation” on Wednesday.
Tipoff time between Western and Valley — in the semifinals — is set for 7 p.m.
“Another home game here is big for these kids,” said Persin. “They (Western) shoot the ball very well, so it’s going to be a good test for us. But like I told our kids, we have everything in front of us. We’ve just won a sectional, now we’re playing at home again for the first game of the district. We just want to keep playing and moving on.”
* * *
Waterford 2 18 11 9 — 40
Valley 17 17 11 17 —62
WATERFORD 40 (9-12)
Holden Dailey 2 0-2 4, Braden Miller 0 2-2 2, Grant McCutcheon 2 0-1 4, Luke Teters 5 0-0 13, Gabe Ponchak 0 0-0 0, Jarrett Armstrong 3 0-0 6, Jacob Huffman 5 1-3 11, Ruslan Strahler, Wade Smith 0 0-0 0, Will Glover 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 17 3-8 40; Three-point field goals: 3 (Luke Teters 3)
VALLEY 62 (11-9)
George Arnett 5 3-5 15, Jace Copley 3 2-2 9, Ty Perkins 7 3-5 17, Carter Nickel 3 0-0 7, Cody Metzler 0 0-0 0, Colt Buckle 1 2-4 4, Blake Wood 0 0-0 0, Tucker Merritt 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 5 0-0 10; TOTALS 24 10-16 62; Three-point field goals: 4 (George Arnett 2, Jace Copley and Carter Nickel 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved