McDERMOTT — The storylines entering Saturday’s Division IV district championship between New Boston and Valley were endless.
Leaving it, however, there’s seemingly just one.
The New Boston Tigers (22-2) weren’t to be denied their second district crown in the last three seasons.
The Tigers, as the Southern Ohio Conference Division I champions for the second straight season, polished off one of their best performances this campaign — defeating the upstart Indians from Lucasville 71-51 on the biggest of stages.
The game — the first meeting between Scioto County boys programs in a district final since Clay and South Webster met in the ‘16-17 postseason — being played at Northwest High School with Athens’ own Lou Horvath on the mic was about as close to a non-COVID Convo trip to the Southeast District basketball tournament you could find.
And just like that meeting four years ago in a D-IV final, the SOC I team got the better of the SOC II district runner-up.
“This district title game was the biggest game I’ve coached in in my life. This was for us, bragging rights on the SOC I and showing we belong,” NB coach Adam Cox said, after the win. “That we were a legit team and we could compete with SOC II on any given night. It was a big game for us, big game for the whole SOC.”
And with all of Scioto County’s eyes on the district prize fight in McDermott, it only seems fitting that the game’s bright star shined the brightest.
Tigers senior Kyle Sexton — the three-time all-Southeast District first team forward — scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed seven boards, and dished out six assists.
Sexton simply came to play, from the get-go.
The senior forward posted a 15-4-4 stat-line at the halftime break, and dominated on the offensive end and on the glass in the game’s first half, he too saying this win over the Indians was about making a statement.
“This was a huge win for us. We gameplanned for this game and stuck to it,” Sexton said. “Plus I was ready to make a statement, I’m tired of hearing everyone say we’re not that good and couldn’t play in the SOC II.”
“I was praying all day that today wasn’t the last time I get to coach that kid. He’s that special of a player and a young man. Determined to not let go until he’s fulfilled his dreams of getting to the Final Four,” Cox said, of Sexton. “If there’s any kid in our division in the state that I’d want to go to battle with, it’s Kyle Sexton.”
The Tigers held a 10-point lead at the half (28-18), and led by as many as 23 (71-48) in the game’s final minute.
Valley (12-10) cut the deficit to nine after three quarters (44-35), but even when things were going well for the Indians offensively, they still weren’t able to play catch-up with the more experienced Tigers.
This district final appearance was the first time any of the Indians on this year’s roster had reached that level — as the program’s last title bid fell short in the 2015-16 season as a Division III program.
At times, Valley played to its youth — and couldn’t manage to get shots to fall when it needed them to.
For the game, the Indians shot just 16-of-50 from the field and made just eight two-point tries.
“That was it. You look at a lot of the shots they took, and they rolled around the rim and dropped in,” Valley coach Norm Persin said, after the game. “We could never get anything to fall early in the game. I thought we rushed our offense early in the game. We made an adjustment and switched our offenses up, and I thought we got a lot better looks, but even when we got better looks, things just weren’t falling for us.”
As opposed to Valley’s percentages from the field, the Tigers converted at a much higher clip — finishing the game 24-of-45 and an impressive 5-of-7 from three.
Cox credited their gameplan of using a triangle-and-two defense — after early adjustments by the Indians’ coaching staff — on Valley guards Jace Copley and George Arnett for their success on that end.
“We showed them a defense they hadn’t seen it all year. We thought about it all week, and thought that if we took Copley and Arnett away we’d have a shot,” Cox said. “They called a timeout when we started in our 2-3 matchup zone to talk about where they wanted to get the ball, and we instantly switched to the triangle-and-2. Grady Jackson’s defense and Tanner Voiers’ defense in that triangle-and-two was lights out.”
Indians sophomore Carter Nickel scored a team-high 16 points in the decision, including sinking four of Valley’s eight made threes in the contest.
With six made field goals, Nickel accounted for nearly 40-percent of their made shots.
Arnett and sophomore Ty Perkins managed to break double figures with 10 points apiece, but each needed at least five made free throws to do so.
“Everything revolves around that. When you’re not making shots, your energy goes downhill. You don’t guard as well, and you don’t rebound as well. Because it’s always a mental thing. That’s what basically happened,” Persin said. “We could never get going. Even at halftime, we were only down 10 and didn’t play well. If we come out and hit a couple shots, we cut this thing down to four or five and let’s see what we can do. We just couldn’t make anything on a consistent level. Most of our points down the stretch came from the free-throw line.”
Behind Sexton in scoring for NB was De’Von Jones, who had 16 points, and Tanner Voiers, who had 15.
The senior trio combined for 36 of the Tigers’ 43 second-half points in the 20-point win.
“Always in the right spot at the right time — a ball magnet,” Cox said, of Jones. “You tell me that three of my three seniors are going to step up and score 28, 16, and 15, I’d say we were going to win this game.”
Brady Voiers scored each of his six points in the fourth quarter, drawing two charges near the basket and helping the Tigers in his role off the bench as NB’s sixth man.
Cox called the younger Voiers the “unsung hero” of the program’s second district title win since 1960.
“It takes a special kid, who would start on any Division IV team around here, and come off the bench for us. He’s an unsung hero tonight — the charges he took, didn’t let people get into his chest. Coming up with some big buckets. I thought Brady knew his role, accepted it, and did a good job.”
Valley graduates two seniors in Nick Mowery and Blake Wood, both of which drew the praise from the first-year coach Persin for their willingness to be teammates.
The OHSAA’s third-place all-time coaching wins leader — with a record of 778-224 — said he is looking forward to a full offseason with his group as they do not lose a single player from their rotation which saw the court in Saturday’s district final.
“It hasn’t happened at Valley too many times where they get to the district championship. We’ve got things to build on, and we can’t be satisfied with what we did here. The next couple of years, we have to make another jump. Everybody is back except our two seniors Nick Mowery and Blake Wood. They were two guys that were great kids and great for our program,” Persin said. “It was a tough year with a new team and a new coach, and twice we got shut down by COVID. But we were able to establish ourselves, have a winning season, get to the district championship game. Let’s take it from there and get better for next season. We have our entire team back and our entire JV group back that was really good. It should be exciting for us and we’re really looking forward to it.”
New Boston junior guard Grady Jackson, who scored each of his five points in the first half, didn’t return after falling on his shoulder midway through the game’s final period.
Cox says he’s uncertain of Jackson’s status entering Tuesday’s Division IV regional semifinal versus Grandview Heights, but expects he’ll play as a credit to his toughness.
Speaking of Grandview Heights, the Tigers will need to go through the Bobcats if they wish to reach their second Elite Eight in three seasons and earn another shot in a D-IV regional title game.
The fourth-year coach, now posting a record of 80-18 entering this year’s regional stage, concluded by appreciating the steps his program has had to take to reach the position they’re in today.
“Unbelievable for the program from where we’ve came to where we are now. The kids, the younger kids experiencing this and knowing what they have to work for this summer,” Cox said. “Valley’s not going anywhere — they’ll be the best D-IV team in the area next year. We just weren’t ready to turn it over to them yet. Our seniors and upperclassmen, we knew we’ve been here before.”
Tip time between the Tigers and Bobcats is now set for 8 p.m. at Larry Jordan Gymnasium at Southeastern High School, just south of Chillicothe.
The winner of NB and GH will face the winner of Trimble and Berlin Hiland in a regional title tilt back at LJG on Friday, March 12.
Portsmouth Daily Times sports reporter Paul Boggs contributed to this report.
* * *
Valley 10 8 17 16 — 51
New Boston 16 12 16 27 — 71
VALLEY 51 (12-10)
George Arnett 2 5-6 10, Jace Copley 3 0-0 8, Ty Perkins 2 6-10 10, Carter Nickel 6 0-0 16, Cody Metzler 1 0-0 2, Colt Buckle 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 2 0-0 5; TOTALS 16 11-16 51; Three-point field goals: 8 (Carter Nickel 4, Jace Copley 2, George Arnett and Bryce Stuart 1 apiece); Shooting: 16-50 (8-26 from 3-point); Rebounds: 20; Turnovers: 19; Steals 10 (Ty Perkins 5)
NEW BOSTON 71 (22-2)
De’Von Jones 5 5-8 16, Grady Jackson 2 0-0 5, Tanner Voiers 6 1-2 15, Kyle Sexton 9 9-13 28, Sethe Perry 0 0-0 0, Chase Clark 0 1-2 1, Brady Voiers 2 2-2 6; TOTALS 24 18-27 71; Three-point field goals: 5 (Tanner Voiers 2, De’Von Jones, Grady Jackson and Kyle Sexton 1 apiece); Shooting: 24-45 (5-7 from 3-point); Rebounds: 31; Turnovers: 15; Steals: 12 (Chase Clark 4)
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