LUCASVILLE — Bryce Stuart, or so one would think, sure had to feel some sore hands from briefly hanging on the rim on Tuesday night.
Not once, not twice, but in fact count ‘em three times.
Simply put, with Stuart’s slam dunks times three, with Valley’s three-point goals times eight, and with its airtight trap turning the West Senators over time and again, the Indians indeed made sure winning on The Reservation —and their undefeated records —remained intact.
That’s because Valley vanquished visiting West 72-39 on Tuesday, opening the floodgates for its latest Southern Ohio Conference Division II triumph with a 22-6 outscoring of the Senators in the second quarter.
And, while Stuart slammed home three basketballs throughout, it was his first of two three-pointers —part of the Indians’ eight —that jump-started Valley’s running roughshod on West for the final 27 minutes.
The Indians took a 12-10 lead at the three-minute mark of the opening period, ballooned it to 39-18 by halftime and 58-29 entering the final canto, and actually came within a basket three times in the final 3:22 of enforcing the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule.
Valley’s largest margins, with both squads substituting freely for the final 6:24, were 33 points (68-35 with 3:22, 70-37 with 2:33, 72-39 with 1:11) three times.
But, the Indians did their primary damage in the final 3:03 of the first quarter — and all eight minutes of the next.
West’s only seven points in the first half’s final 8:42 were buckets by Noah Coleman and Jesse Dixon, two free throws from Ryan Sissel, and a split of charity tosses by Dixon.
Valley’s victory, an important one in the SOC II championship chase and for Division IV Southeast District seeding purposes, raised its unblemished record to 7-0 —and to 5-0 in the SOC II.
The Indians own league wins over Northwest, Minford, South Webster, Eastern and now West —with Wheelersburg (Jan. 7) and Waverly (Jan. 11) on deck following New Year’s Day.
The Senators, meanwhile, after defeating Wheelersburg a week ago on Friday for their first win over the Pirates since 2013, slipped to 3-4 —and to 2-3 in the SOC II.
Valley’s formula for success was simple —ball-pressure trap the Senators defensively, and utilize its athleticism, length and perhaps most importantly its speed.
The Indians forced West into a 29-percent shooting night on 13-of-45, which included only 1-of-16 from three-point range —a third-quarter three-ball by Jeffery Bishop.
The Senators also committed 17 turnovers, with the Indians making 14 steals —and often turning those into layups.
Valley, of its 25 total field goals, assisted on 16 of them —and shot a sizzling 17-of-27 for 63-percent from inside the arc.
Even outside of it wasn’t bad either, as the Indians attempted 25 shots from downtown Lucasville —and made eight (32-percent).
The Indians are indeed a fast-paced transition-style team under first-year head coach Craig Tackett, but Tackett can preach patience as he did on Tuesday night.
“Patience is a funny word to use for as fast as we play. But I keep telling the guys that if a team hangs around on us for a little bit, just be patient and keep doing what we’re doing. Our conditioning is going to kick in, and not a lot of teams want to run with us for that amount of time,” he said. “They may play and run with us for a while, but if we can speed a team up, that’s not their style of play. I thought our guys did a great job tonight of trying to up the energy and up the tempo. West typically likes to run that 1-3-1 zone (half-court defense) and slow the game down and convert on their offense. I thought we were able to up the pace and get them out of their comfort zone.”
West coach Caleb McClanahan agreed that his Senators “didn’t handle their (Indians) pressure”.
“All credit to Valley. We knew what they were going to do coming in, and practiced that. Passing out of the traps and shortening the passes, doing what we had to do to play out of the traps. But you don’t know until you see that pressure applied to your guys,” said the coach. “Valley is a good ballclub who is athletic and gets after you on defense. They cause a lot of havoc. You can tell they are on a mission, and we’re still trying to figure out our identity.”
The Senators, like Tackett said, did hang around for the first 4:40 —as there were actually eight lead changes for a back-and-forth first frame, with Sissel scoring the Senators’ opening six points.
Valley led 3-2, 5-4, 7-6 and 9-8, while West led 2-0, 4-3, 6-5, 8-7 and finally 10-9.
Stuart then rattled in his first three-pointer, blocked a Cole Tipton triple at the first-quarter buzzer, and finally got his first dunk off an alley-oop with George Arnett — with 3:50 before halftime for a 30-14 lead.
He then had his own fast-break breakaway slam with a minute-and-a-half left in the third, and finally 44 seconds into the final stanza.
Stuart — a six-foot four-inch senior —shredded the Senators for a game-high 25 points on nine total field goals and 5-of-6 free throws.
In fact, he was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field —and 7-of-7 from two-point territory.
Arnett, who made off with five steals, added seven field goals on 16 shots —and meshed two third-quarter tosses towards 18 points.
Tucker Merritt managed nine points, Jace Copley canned a trifecta plus a perfect 5-of-5 freebies for eight, and Carter Nickel knocked down a first-quarter deuce and trey.
Colt Buckle with three third-period points, and a fourth-quarter field goal apiece by Levi Stewart and Chris Queen, rounded out the Purple and Gold scoring.
“I’m confident of anybody we have in the game, they can score. That’s just it. It’s a mutual respect between the players and coaches,” said Tackett. “The kids know we (coaches) have confidence in them to go out and play loose and play their style and play to win.”
Sissel scored a dozen to pace the Senators, tacking two third-quarter free throws on — along with two more fourth-quarter field goals.
Jack Jordan landed all eight of his in the final period, while Dixon —the six-foot three-inch senior standout who returned to the West lineup and went off for 31 points against Wheelersburg —was limited to six first-half points against Valley.
The Indians frustrated Dixon to the point of three first-half fouls, followed by his fourth four minutes and 42 seconds into the third quarter.
Dixon made just two shots on 11 attempts, including eight three-point tries.
Tackett said defending Dixon was a point of emphasis.
“He is obviously a great player, but our guys did a great job of their assignments on defense. Make sure we stayed in front of him, and then we like to send that trap when we can,” he said. “We were trying to keep Dixon from getting in a rhythm. When he gets in a rhythm, he is going to start knocking down shots. It was a matter of keeping them uncomfortable.”
Speaking of comfort, the Indians indeed like their present view from atop the SOC II —with Waverly the only club currently with one league loss.
Still, Valley knows its approach to each conference contest is the same cliche.
Because, unlike Stuart on Tuesday, each night in the SOC II is no slam dunk at all.
“Every night, it’s one game at a time. We go into each game that they are 0-0 and we’re 0-0,” said Tackett. “We have to go into that game knowing we hadn’t seen them this season, and that’s how we have to treat every one of them.”
* * *
West 12 6 11 10—39
Valley 17 22 19 14 — 72
WEST 39 (3-4, 2-3 SOC II)
Jack Jordan 3 2-5 8, Trevor Fike 0 0-0 0, Diamonte Skaggs 0 0-0 0, Jesse Dixon 2 2-5 6, Jeffery Bishop 1 0-0 3, Cole Tipton 0 1-3 1, Noah Coleman 1 2-2 4, Mitchell Irwin 0 1-2 1, Ryan Sissel 5 2-2 12, Eli Sayre 0 0-0 0, Brennan Overby 0 0-0 0, Jacob Davis 1 0-0 2, Levi Patrick 0 2-2 2; TOTALS 13 12-21 39; Three-point field goals: 1 (Jeffery Bishop 1)
VALLEY 72 (7-0, 5-0 SOC II)
George Arnett 7 2-2 18, Dakota Secrest 0 0-0 0, Hunter Edwards 0 0-0 0, Colt Buckle 1 1-2 3, Carter Nickel 2 0-0 5, Jace Copley 1 5-5 8, Chris Queen 1 0-0 2, Tucker Merritt 3 1-2 9, Bryce Stuart 9 5-6 25, Levi Stewart 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 25 14-17 72; Three-point field goals: 8 (George Arnett, Tucker Merritt and Bryce Stuart 2 apiece, Carter Nickel and Jace Copley 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved