By Cody Leist
LUCASVILLE —Those who had to wait an extra day on the Minford-Valley boys SOC II finale received the game they anticipated Saturday and then some.
Thanks to a game-high 28 points, eight steals and five rebounds from Chris Flowers, the host Indians secured the conference title outright with an 81-76 victory in double overtime. It’s believed to be the first time Valley has swept the SOC II school in school history.
From the tip, Flowers started the game with three-straight steals and had four in the period. Indians coach Scott Rolfe felt his senior guard was focused on the game once the ball went up into the air.
“It was a pretty complete game by Chris,” Rolfe said. “He’s had some big games for us this year. He had that look that we’re not going to be denied this championship (outright) and that’s what’s great about this senior group, whatever it takes, one or more of these guys are going to work together, bond together and make something good happen.”
The momentum from the Falcon miscues led to a 6-1 Valley lead early in the contest. However, Minford clawed back as Jared McCray’s basket late in the stanza capped off a 12-8 advantage that cut the Falcon deficit to 14-13 after one.
The Indians’ lead expanded to start the second on a 7-0 run. At 23-13, it was the first double-digit lead for either side.
Just as Minford had done in the previous quarter, the Falcons trimmed the margin to 29-28 thanks to a pair of 3-pointers each from Kenton Gullion and Trey Kelley. The halfway point of regulation was reached on back-to-back baskets from Zach Shope and Flowers.
Minford finally broke through with the lead at 39-37 midway through the third when Brandon Rowe’s shot from downtown capped off an 11-0 run. The three-time champions responded to the blow by accounting for seven of the quarter’s last 10 points and went into the fourth with a 44-42 edge.
“We had our leads and we didn’t protect them,” Rolfe said.
Rowe helped the Falcons retake the lead at 52-51 in the latter stages of the fourth. After a pair of lead changes, their lead grew to 59-56 with 40 seconds remaining on a pair of Cody Stapleton free throws.
As the dreams of a perfect conference record hung in the balance, Jordan West banked a 3-pointer and was sent to the line not only in an attempt to complete a 4-point play, but to put Valley in front for the fourth time in the evening.
“Against Minford, he has done that in the past,” Rolfe said. “This is like his third year of hitting a crucial shot against them. He did it as a sophomore and did it last year.”
But when West didn’t convert on the free throw, neither team found the golden basket and sent the game into overtime.
Minford scored the first five points of the first extra session. The Falcons were in another position to go for the knockout blow after Stapleton converted on three free throws after being fouled but Flowers had the next five Indian points and Ethan Clark Holbrook’s basket late sent the game into a second overtime at 69 apiece.
With Flowers and Hayden Dunn each collared with four fouls entering the second overtime, Rolfe trotted out Clark-Holbrook and Ryan Brown in their place. The move paid off from the start when West won the tip and found Brown on a alley-oop layup.
It was the final lead change of the contest.
“By the time we got to the double overtime, our conditioning kicked in a little bit,” Rolfe said. “You look at the minutes and some of the breaks that our guys get, you don’t think much of a minute break in the second quarter but or a minute break at the beginning of the fourth quarter but it does pay off in the end.”
The game was salted away when Flowers made five out of his six free throws in the second overtime. With his team having plenty of chances, Minford coach Josh Shoemaker knew the opportunity for a share of the SOC II for a second-straight season was there for the taking.
“Our kids played hared, but we just couldn’t put them away,” Shoemaker said. “Credit to Valley, they never quit. They have a great senior class and it has been a joy to compete against them.”
Stapleton led the Falcons with 18 points, McCray had 16 points and 18 rebounds while Kelley and Gullion each chipped in with 10 points. Dunn had 14 points and West finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Indians.
Rolfe said at the onset of the season, he felt that with the amount of talent returning, his team expected to be in this position.
“That was a mission of ours, to get through the SOC and win it outright,” Rolfe said. “We didn’t need any help from anybody else, we took care of our own business. Again, it’s a tribute to this group.”
Both teams will focus their attentions to their respective tournament paths. As a No. 2 seed, Minford starts Feb. 18 at Chillicothe Southeastern against No. 7 Greenfield McClain in a Division II Southeast Sectional Semifinal. Valley is a No. 1 seed at Waverly and will take the floor Feb. 21 against either No. 8 Piketon or No. 9 West Union.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Minford 13 15 14 12 10 7 — 76
Valley 14 19 11 15 10 12 — 81
Minford — McCray 7-2-16, Stapleton 4-6-18, Rowe 8-4-21, Justice 0-1-1, Kelley 4-0-10, Gullion 3-2-10, Totals 26-15-76.
Valley — Clark-Holbrook 2-0-4, Flowers 7-11-28, Rolfe 3-2-19, Shope 2-1-6, Brown 3-1-7, West 5-0-13, Dunn 4-6-14, Totals 26-21-81.
3-Point Goals — Minford 9 (Stapleton 4, Kelley 2, Gullion 2, Rowe); Valley 8 (Flowers 3, West 3, Rolfe, Shope).
Records — Minford 16-3 (12-2); Valley 20-2 (14-0)