ATHENS — The Southern Ohio Conference’s remaining two teams in Division IV boys tournament action met at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens on Tuesday night.
It had been two years since the D-II, III, and IV regional tournaments had been played inside the Convo — and was a return to the regional tournament for two programs which had been aiming for a return to the “Sweet Sixteen” for some time.
The Valley Indians (20-5) — coming off their first district championship since 2014 — saw their season end in a 63-55 loss to Western (24-2) in the Division IV, Region 15 semifinal.
The first Region 15 semifinal was a double overtime thriller — a 63-62 victory for Hiland over Newark Catholic.
Trailing 30-28 at halftime, the ultimately-deciding period for Valley was the third — as a putback at the buzzer by Valley junior Hunter Edwards brought his Indians within two at the break.
However, Valley was outscored 17-7 in the third quarter.
Western led by 12 on two occasions — their largest leads of the game.
In the loss, Valley shot 22-of-61 from the field and 1-of-19 from three.
Western was 22-of-53 from the field and 4-of-14 from three.
“We played extremely hard I felt like, gave the effort we had to give. The thing that got us was we just didn’t hit shots tonight,” Valley coach Craig Tackett said, after the game. “We’ve talked about it all week long that you get this deep in tournaments, every team you play is good. Every team has earned the right to be there. We just didn’t hit a lot of shots, couldn’t get in a rhythm and couldn’t get going.”
Valley’s largest lead was seven — as the Indians from Lucasville started the game with a 7-0 lead.
Western had captured a 13-12 lead by the end of the first period.
Valley cut Western’s lead to five on two occasions in the final two minutes, but were unable to overcome a tough shooting performance in the final stages.
“We switched up our defense late with our press and trap to try and turn them over. Like we saw, there’s a lot of floor to cover here,” Tackett said. “They handled the pressure well, found the open spots, and got the ball where it needed to be.”
Valley forced 16 Western turnovers and committed 13 — while Western won the rebounding battle 37-36.
Sophomore Jace Copley (V) fouled out with 4:05 left in the game after picking up three fouls in the first half.
Senior Bryce Stuart (V) fouled out with 2:13 left — putting two of their three leading scorers on the bench as they attempted to overcome the late-game deficit.
“The foul trouble definitely hurt, but I was proud of the guys who came off the bench,” Tackett said. “Levi Stewart was huge, his knee started to bother him there late. Hunter Edwards brings a lot of energy in off the bench, did a good job getting up and down the floor. Tucker Merritt’s a shooter, thought he did a good job of trying to get open and get some shots up.”
Stuart led Valley with a team-high 17 points, and junior George Arnett scored 16 points.
Stuart and Tucker Merritt graduate as the seniors from this year’s district championship team.
Tackett became an assistant and the JV coach at Valley during their freshman season — seeing their high school careers first-hand from start-to-finish.
“They’re great kids and have a lot to be proud of,” Tackett said. “As good as they are on the floor, they’re the same off the floor as students — they’ll both be successful. Really proud of both of them.”
Western junior Chase Carter led his team with a game-high 21 points — on 8-of-13 shooting and 3-of-7 foul shooting.
Senior Noah Whitt scored 15 points and freshman Drew Haggy had 13 in the regional semifinal win.
Western reaches the regional final for the first time since 2007 with the eight-point victory.
A win at that stage would give Western its first regional championship since 1968.
The Indians from Latham will face Hiland in Friday’s Region 15 final — inside the Convo at 7 p.m.
The Hawks are regional finalists for the fifth straight year.
Western 13 17 17 16 — 63
Valley 12 16 7 20 — 55
Western (24-2) 63
Reed Brewster 2 0-0 4, Sean Kerns 0 0-0 0, Kam Janes 0 1-2 1, Drew Haggy 5 3-4 13, Kolten Miller 3 3-8 9, Noah Whitt 4 5-6 15, Gavin Myers 0 0-0 0, Chase Carter 8 3-7 21; TOTALS: 22 15-27 63; Three-point field goals: 4 (Noah Whitt and Chase Carter 2 apiece)
Valley (20-5) 55
George Arnett 6 3-4 16, Hunter Edwards 1 0-0 2, Colt Buckle 4 2-2 10, Carter Nickel 0 1-2 1, Jace Copley 0 3-4 3, Tucker Merritt 0 0-0 0, Bryce Stuart 8 1-2 17, Levi Stewart 3 0-0 6; TOTALS: 22 10-14 55; Three-point field goals: 1 (George Arnett 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved