SOUTH WEBSTER — Tight games typically mean that the little things go down as the difference-makers.
In the Valley Indians’ 60-54 road win over South Webster on Friday night in a meeting of SOC II unbeaten teams, the visiting Indians made the plays necessary to come away with a road win in a packed SWHS gymnasium.
Trailing 46-39 heading into the fourth quarter, South Webster cut the Indians’ lead to three on two occasions.
Valley kept its lead in the end, however, and continued on its perfect start with the six-point victory.
Carter Nickel and Colten Buckle scored 17 of the Indians’ 30 second-half points, including a bank-in three by Nickel that helped Valley bolster its lead in the late stretches.
“The guys really showed their maturity. Webster showed they weren’t going to lay down,” Valley coach Craig Tackett said, afterwards. “Anytime they showed they were going to make a run, our guys re-grouped and came together. When things weren’t going our way, we stepped up and made the plays we needed to.”
Valley senior Bryce Stuart led all scorers with 15 points — 10 points in the first half.
Four of the Indians’ five second-quarter field goals were three-pointers, a pair by both junior George Arnett and Stuart.
Nickel scored 13 and Buckle had 12 for the game as the three Indian scorers to reach double figures.
Valley’s defensive pressure and rotations held the Jeeps to just 24 points in the first half.
Tackett praised his team’s defense, particularly Buckle, who helped contain SW senior Trae Zimmerman to four points through the first three periods of play.
Stuart and six-foot-seven Levi Stewart, who came in off the bench when Stuart was in foul trouble, helped defend the post and limit Jeep shots at the rim, both of which Tackett said was crucial to the outcome.
“Colten Buckle loves a challenge on the defensive end and he couldn’t have showed it any better than tonight. He played his role perfectly trying to contain Zimmerman, we knew how tough he (Zimmerman) is coming in,” Tackett said. “Bryce did a great job on (Eli) Roberts and when he got in foul trouble, brought Levi (Stewart) in and we had guys step up in spots they didn’t know they were going to have to.”
South Webster had four scorers in double figures, led by freshman Eli Roberts’ 15 points.
Will Collins had 13, while Cam Carpenter and Zimmerman both had 12.
“They did a good job of keeping us out of what we wanted to do on offense,” SW coach Brenton Cole said, afterwards.”They kept us sped up where we weren’t staying in our sets, hats off to them for having a good gameplan coming into it.”
The Jeeps travel to Waverly on Tuesday night, looking for a bounce-back win over the Tigers in the Waverly Downtown Arena.
“It showed a lot of heart being able to come back and make it a one possession game there late, lot of heart,” Cole said. “And it’s also a game that gives you film that says, these are things that we need to get better at.”
The first-year Valley coach said he couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2021-22 season and his head coaching career, but it’s a start they’ll be building on through late December and the start of the new year.
The Indians return home to Lucasville on Friday (Dec. 17) to face the Eastern Eagles in SOC II play.
“I would call this a dream start to the season, couldn’t be better,” Tackett said. “But we’ve got to stay humble and realize that what got us here is our hard work every single day in practice.”
Valley 16 14 16 14 — 60
South Webster 12 14 13 15 — 54
Valley (5-0, 3-0 SOC II) 60
George Arnett 3 0-0 8, Colten Buckle 6 0-4 12, Carter Nickel 6 0-0 13, Jace Copley 2 4-4 8, Tucker Merritt 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 5 3-6 15, Levi Stewart 2 0-0 4; TOTALS: 24 7-14 60; Three-point field goals: 5 (Stuart, Arnett 2 apiece, Nickel 1)
South Webster (3-1, 1-1 SOC II) 54
Connor Bender 0 2-2 2, Trae Zimmerman 5 1-1 12, Brock Campbell 0 0-0 0, Cam Carpenter 4 3-4 12, Brady Blizzard 0 0-0 0, Eli Roberts 7 0-0 15, Will Collins 6 1-3 13; TOTALS: 22 7-10 54; Three-point field goals: 3 (Zimmerman, Roberts, Carpenter 1 apiece)