PDT Sports Writer
Editor’s Note: The following report originally appeared on portsmouth-dailytimes.com.
MINFORD — Host Minford may have had the touch from beyond the arc Friday night, but Valley proved the key to win the SOC II is attacking the basket.
The Indians were 18-of-26 from the free throw line, outscored the Falcons 28-22 in the paint and withstood a last-second 3-point miss for a 58-53 victory. The win makes Valley the lone unbeaten team in conference play.
“We talked at halftime about (how) we thought they would get tired and we just continued the tempo,” Indians coach Scott Rolfe said. “It happened there in the middle of the third quarter, we got that six or eight-point lead. Unfortunately they continued to hit shots and kept closing the gap.”
“…We finally finally had a game where we didn’t close it as a team like we wanted to. We’d like to get it into that double-digit lead but we were able to finish at the foul line.”
Despite four ties in the first half, Minford never trailed before halftime. The Falcons doubled up Valley 16-8 in the first quarter thanks to its shooting from the perimeter, specifically Trey Kelley. The sophomore was 4-of-6 from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point range in the opening quarter.
Despite allowing the Falcons to shoot 6-of-12 in the frame, Rolfe was content with the zone his team was playing as long as they were able to contain Jared McCray in the post.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone around here who can handle him one-on-one once he gets the step on you,” Rolfe said. “We weren’t able to keep him out of the lane like we wanted, we wanted him to catch it out of the lane and away from the basket.”
The Indians began the second on an 8-0 run but Minford responded with a 7-0 run of its own. Despite a 7-0 spurt late in the stanza from the guests, Cody Stapleton’s triple guaranteed the lead would not change hands. It didn’t despite a Hayden Dunn field goal to close the half at a 26-25 margin.
Valley broke through early in the second half when Bryan Rolfe opened the scoring with his team’s final 3-pointer of the contest. Both teams split the next eight points before Jordan West’s second-chance basket gave the Indians the jumpstart to a margin that never reached even for the rest of the game.
In fact, Valley’s 6-0 edge in second-chance points in the third quarter was a part of a 16-3 edge the Indians held in the category. They outrebounded the Falcons by a 47-27 margin, including a 16-6 edge on the offensive glass.
“In the third quarter, we didn’t hit shots and we didn’t do a good job of boxing out,” Minford coach Josh Shoemaker said. “They got a lot of second-chance points in that third quarter.”
By the time the second half had rolled around, Shoemaker admitted the style by the opposition took its toll.
“They did a good job of slowing us down and making us work the ball more,” Shoemaker said.
The outlook looked bleaker for the home team to start the fourth as the Falcons started the quarter missing their first seven shots. However, Stapleton’s 3-pointer stopped the bleeding at 47-41 and was the only points off an offensive rebound.
The basket sparked a 15-7 run and cut the deficit to 54-53 with 15 seconds remaining. A pair of Chris Flowers foul shots bumped Valley’s lead to 56-53 and gave Minford one final chance.
Just as they had done 11 previous times, the Falcons put the ball in Kelley’s hands. Unfortunately, his 3-pointer with under five seconds remaining rimmed out and ended Minford’s chances of a tie.
“(Kelley) did a good job of getting open and his teammates did a good job of getting him the ball,” Shoemaker said.
Dunn finished his 20-point, seven-rebound performance with a pair of shots from the charity stripe after grabbing the Kelley miss to end the scoring. Jordan West finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds in the winning effort.
Kelley finished with 19 points. The Falcons were 5-of-7 from the line on the night.
The Indians travel Saturday to Chesapeake to play Athens in the Beast of the Southeast Tournament. The Bulldogs, regarded as one of the region’s best teams in Division II fell 67-57 Friday night at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which was a state finalist last year in the same division.
Despite the depth his team possesses, Scott Rolfe hopes his team can find ways to overcome the mental hurdles.
Minford will look to rebound Tuesday with a trip to Waverly. The Tigers lost 57-33 Friday night to visiting Wheelersburg.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.