WELLSTON — A full version of this story will be available later and in the Tuesday, March 8 print edition of The Daily Times.
The Valley Indians put the proof in the pudding that the fourth quarter is indeed winning time.
Trailing the Fairfield Lions 38-30 entering the fourth quarter, Valley out-scored the Lions 17-8 in the final eight minutes — winning the program’s first district title since 2014 with a 47-46 victory at Wellston High School.
Senior Bryce Stuart led the Indians with a team-high 18 points on seven-of-nine shooting and 4-of-5 foul shooting.
Stuart’s reverse dunk on a breakaway assisted by sophomore Jace Copley with 2:56 left in the third quarter pulled the Indians within five at 33-28.
“It motivated me to my core,” Stuart said, of playing with his season on the line. “When we struggled in the first half and came out a little slow, I knew I had to get going and get the team behind me.”
A layup by junior Carter Nickel with 2:22 to play in regulation gave Valley their first lead at 43-42.
After Fairfield regained the lead on a pair buckets separated by an Indians turnover, Nickel made another layup with 42 seconds to play to put the Indians back in front at 47-46.
Fairfield senior Joe Bentley had an attempt at the game-winning shot with 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation trailing by the final margin, but his shot hit off the back iron to preserve the Valley win.
“Last possession felt like it lasted 45 minutes,” Valley coach Craig Tackett said. “We knew they were going to try getting something going to the rim. We made some adjustments — wanted to switch screens, contain shots, and make sure we don’t foul. Our guys made great adjustments coming out of the timeout and it shows how coach-able they are.”
George Arnett scored 12 points, Copley scored eight, Nickel finished with seven (all in the second half), and Colt Buckle had two points in the district final win.
It will be an all-Southern Ohio Conference regional semifinal as Valley faces Western on Tuesday, March 8 at 8:00 p.m. at the Convocation Center in Athens.
Western defeated Trimble 56-40 in their own district final at Wellston on Friday.
Fairfield 15 10 13 8 — 46
Valley 10 7 13 17 — 47
Reese Teeters 9 3-3 22, Joe Bentley 3 4-6 11, Brayden Zimmerman 0 0-0 0, Koben Zink 0 2-2 2, Tytis Cannon 3 2-3 9, TJ Mootz 1 0-0 2; TOTALS: 16 11-14 46; Three-point field goals: 3 (Teeters, Bentley, Cannon 1 apiece)
Valley (20-4) 47
George Arnett 3 4-5 12, Hunter Edwards 0 0-0 0, Colt Buckle 1 0-0 2, Carter Nickel 3 0-0 7, Jace Copley 3 2-2 8, Bryce Stuart 7 4-5 18, Levi Stewart 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 17 10-12 47; Three-point field goals: 3 (Arnett 2, Nickel 1)
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