LUCASVILLE — For almost a quarter-and-a-half on Tuesday night, the Valley Indians were running, jumping, and scoring — and pretty much high-flying at will inside a rocking Reservation.
But then, halfway through the second quarter, the Indians —all of the sudden —hit a Waverly wall.
The Tigers, meanwhile, turned a 16-point first-half dire deficit into an actual fourth-quarter runaway —with Waverly senior scoring standout Trey Robertson now just one basket shy of epic school history.
Oh, and by the way, in a showdown of state-ranked Associated Press poll teams, the Tigers tied the Indians in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II loss column —and are actually now a half-game ahead in this cutthroat conference championship chase.
That’s because the visiting Tigers totally wiped out the Indians’ 29-13 first-half advantage, outscoring them 45-13 for the entire second half and a reciprocal 52-25 over the final 20 minutes and 40 seconds —en route to capturing a 65-54 come-from-behind triumph in front of a loud and full house.
Speaking of the crowd, it was a who’s who of some Southeastern Ohio basketball personalities —including Shawnee State head coach Delano Thomas, who himself had a courtside seat.
Thomas had to like what he saw from the Indians in the opening quarter-and-a-half, which played their fast and patented pressing pace — all towards a 21-11 lead at the first stop, and which soon ballooned to 29-13 with 4:40 remaining in the second stanza.
As part of Valley’s fiery start — despite the Indians not having played in two full weeks until Tuesday — junior George Arnett amounted nine points on four field goals, including a three-pointer just three minutes in.
He and sophomore Jace Copley had three two-pointers apiece in the period, as senior Bryce Stuart also scored six —on two baskets and a pair of foul hots.
Stuart then started the second canto with an old-fashioned three-point play and corner-pocket three-ball— as a Colt Buckle bucket made it 29-13 for the Indians’ largest lead.
From there, though, as Newfound Glory once sang, it was all downhill from here.
Valley’s limited depth, due to foul trouble, because an instant issue — as Carter Nickel picked up three quick personals in the opening 9:25, followed by his fourth just 58 seconds into the third frame.
And the Tigers took full advantage, erupting for 45 second-half points —and finally taking their first lead a minute into the final salvo.
Waverly, with 6:22 remaining, took its second slim edge at 44-43 on one of Will Futhey’s four fourth-quarter field goals —and never trailed again as it began to pull away.
After Arnett meshed two free throws to get the Indians to within one (46-45) and 5:33 to play, Robertson and the Tigers attacked the Indians inside the paint —knifing to the rim and getting layups as a result.
For Futhey, following his final-quarter baskets, he split a pair of charity tosses with 22.6 seconds left — for the Tigers’ largest lead at 65-50.
Stuart sank his second trifecta and split a pair of free throws from there —but by then, the Indians were left to reflect on what had happened in the final 20:40.
Had Tucker Merritt not made his halftime buzzer-beating basket, Valley would have finished the first half’s final 4:40 completely scoreless.
“We were executing our gameplan and hitting shots in the first half, but I don’t know if our legs went away or what it was. We went cold in the second half and quit knocking down shots. We were getting open looks, but they were going in and out. We just couldn’t execute on offense and didn’t make shots,” said Valley coach Craig Tackett. “We got in foul trouble too, and were afraid to come out in the second half and keep that press on and continue to pick up fouls. So we dropped back in that zone, trying to keep ourselves from fouling as often. We couldn’t get going with that, so we came back out of the zone and tried to speed it up again, but it seemed like we couldn’t. We had a lot of momentum and we were running, but those fouls changed the gameplan, and we could never get in a rhythm after that.”
But, the reigning Southeast District Division II Player of the Year Robertson — and his Tigers teammates — finally did.
Robertson, of his game-high 26 which put him within an eyelash of three historic points, made four fourth-quarter field goals and 4-of-5 freebies.
With 1,663 career points, he now only needs a mere two points to tie Jake Kretzer —and become the Tigers’ all-time career scoring leader.
Three points, of course, will break the mark —as Kretzer, a former Southeast District Division II POY himself and University of Akron standout, was indeed in attendance on Tuesday night.
Robertson finished with five twos, and a three-point goal apiece in quarters one and three —while mixing in 10-of-13 free throws, including 6-of-8 in the first half and 4-of-6 in the second quarter, which kept the Tigers within striking distance.
Futhey finished with 19 points on seven baskets and 5-of-10 free throws, and when Robertson wasn’t attacking the Indians in their zone —either he or Hudson Kelly were.
Kelly tallied 10 points on five deuces, including three in the third frame —the final of which was an acrobatic up-and-under scoop shot which beat the buzzer.
That made it 41-40, as Mark Stulley scored a minute into the final quarter to give Waverly the lead.
“We wanted to get into the paint and get to the rim, show them the ball, get into their bodies and get to the free-throw line. We went inside to Will (Futhey) who was able to score, then we spread them out and forced them to guard us with Trey getting into the creases,” said Waverly coach Travis Robertson. “And we shot really well in the second half after a horrible first half.”
It was indeed a tale of two-and-a-half quarters — with Waverly first playing much better defensively.
Baskets by Buckle and Copley kept the Valley cushion at 13 (33-20 and 35-25) twice, as an Arnett off-balance bucket — followed by two Stuart free throws — made it 11 (39-28 and 41-30) twice again.
Stuart’s driving score made it a 12-point game (37-25), although the Tigers closed the quarter with 10 unanswered over the final 3:35.
“I was disappointed in the first half as far as what we were talking about doing and putting it in play. We got beat in transition and gave up some easy ones, and we forced some shots and it felt like we panicked. But the second half, we got back defensively, got up in them once they crossed halfcourt, continued to pressure the basketball, and really made it hard for them to do things,” said Robertson.
For the final 5:06, the Indians never got closer than 48-47 —and were never closer than six in the final 2:37.
Until Stuart made his three-pointer with 17 seconds showing, Waverly outscored Valley 17-5 over a full five-minute span.
Stuart tossed in a team-high 22, on seven total field goals and 6-of-7 foul shots.
Arnett amassed 15, with six total field goals and his 2-of-2 fourth-quarter freebies.
Copley added eight on four field goals, while Buckle scored seven on three deuces and a fourth-quarter split of free throws.
“Give Waverly credit. They are a great ballteam. They came out, got up us in, and really guarded. Didn’t let us have anything easy in the second half. They executed well on both ends in the second half and hit some big shots,” said Tackett. “We had to switch gameplans and keep from fouling as much by dropping back in that zone. If we could have stayed with our original speed, hopefully, we could have kept some momentum going. But things change on the fly.”
On the fly, and atop the league.
Waverly, with an 8-3 mark but with two single-digit losses against Division I units Newark and Upper Arlington, went in front by a half-game in the SOC II standings.
The Tigers are now 6-1, while the Indians indeed suffered their first loss —now at 9-1 and 5-1 in the league.
Both teams lead Minford (4-2 SOC II) in the loss column, as Minford defeated Waverly 64-58 —while Valley vanquished Minford 73-64.
South Webster won at Minford (61-52) as well —as Waverly will host both the Falcons and Indians later on in the year.
“Valley is really skilled, really good,” said Coach Robertson. “They are going to beat a lot of teams, and they have a chance to do some nice things in Division IV this year.”
But now, the no-longer undefeated Indians must handle some adversity, which Tackett talked about to his team —and addressed in his postgame media interview.
“If someone would have told us we would be 9-1 halfway through January, I think we would all be very happy with that. No time to hang our heads,” said the coach. “Any team that makes a long playoff run or battles for a league championship faces adversity at some point in the season. I would rather face it now than later. We just have to stick together and bounce back beginning this weekend.”
* * *
Waverly 11 9 20 25 —65
Valley 21 10 10 13— 54
WAVERLY 65 (8-3, 6-1 SOC II)
Peyton Harris 0 0-0 0, Mark Stulley 2 0-0 4, Hudson Kelly 5 0-0 10, Drake Teeters 0 0-0 0, Trey Robertson 7 10-13 26, Wade Futhey 1 0-0 3, Braylon Robertson 1 0-0 3, Penn Morrison 0 0-0 0, Jamison Morton 0 0-0 0, Will Futhey 7 5-10 19, Tanner Nichols 0 0-0 0, Ben Nichols 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 23 15-23 65; Three-point field goals: 4 (Trey Robertson 2, Wade Futhey and Braylon Robertson 1 apiece)
VALLEY 54 (9-1, 5-1 SOC II)
George Arnett 6 2-2 15, Hunter Edwards 3 1-2 7, Colt Buckle 3 1-2 7, Carter Nickel 0 0-0 0, Jace Copley 4 0-0 8, Tucker Merritt 1 0-0 2, Bryce Stuart 7 6-7 22; TOTALS 21 9-11 54; Three-point field goals: 3 (Bryce Stuart 2, George Arnett 1)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved