LUCASVILLE – The Valley Indians and Wheelersburg Pirates were playing Monday night’s makeup game for some big stakes; a share of the SOC title. While the win guaranteed at least a share of the title for both teams with a win, Valley can now win the title outright with another victory against the Minford Falcons on Friday.
The atmosphere was buzzing in Lucasville. Not only were both crowds in attendance at full force, but many other teams and coaches were in the bleachers scouting both teams in case of potential tournament matchups. Valley started hot, as Bryan Rolfe was active on the defensive end forcing turnovers and scoring in bunches on the offensive end. He had 14 points and five assists at the half. Wheelersburg struggled when allowing the Indians to run up and down the court, as Rolfe and company managed to break down the transition defense, and get to the bucket, or kick out for a three point shot.
At the half, the score was 34-25 in favor of Valley. Wheelersburg would weather another tough quarter, but regroup with a fury in the fourth. They would go on a 17-7 run, and cut the lead to within three. Later, Tanner Holden would sink a three point bucket that would tie the game at 61 with 2:30 left in the game. With thirty seconds left Bryce Romenello, who had 15 points in the game, sprinted up court and hit a layup off a Blake Howard pass with thirty seconds left.
Down one point, the Wheelersburg Pirates decided to take the last shot. Holden found himself with the ball. He slashed in the lane, put up a potential game winner only to have it clank off the rim. The Valley Indians collected the rebound and celebrated their victory.
The Pirates have two games left on the season. They play Ky’re Allison and the Portsmouth Trojans on Wednesday and then the Waverly Tigers on Friday. Head Coach Steven Ater is now looking forward to tournament time, but knows his team must get better on the defensive end.
“I’m proud of our kids for hanging in there and making the run late,” said Ater. “It just goes to show that when they play as hard as they can, good things can happen for us. We just dug ourselves too deep early with inconsistencies. We missed a play here and there and those really matter in a one point ballgame. We have to be better. We have to be consistent.”
“We have to get better defensively going into the tournament. That was a major problem for us early in this game. It seemed like no matter what we did they got open shots against us. It’s something we should really take better pride in. We showed that we can guard down the stretch. It’s like we weren’t into the mindset early on, and we have to be going forward.”
For Valley, they win at least a share of the SOC title. They play at Piketon on Tuesday, and Minford at home on Friday, to finish up the season. A win against Minford would mean they are the sole SOC II champions, while a loss means they share the honor with the defending champion Minford Falcons. Coach Scott Rolfe was very proud of his squad Monday night.
“We knew it would be different than when we played them earlier in the season,” said Rolfe. “At times we played very well, we managed to build up a big lead and we need to find ways to maintain that lead. We got to the point we wanted, and then started doing things that weren’t what we were doing to build the lead. They started shooting lights out, too, and give them credit because they hit some big three pointers tonight. Hats off to them, they’ve definitely improved and they are 12-4 for a reason.”
“I took a timeout after their big run for two reasons: they needed to catch their breath and I wanted them to regain their composure. We lost it, we were gambling on defense and ended up leaving guys wide open. So we went back to straight man defense with the guys closing out on every shot and rebounding. They finally missed a couple shots, it was up and down for a while and then Bryce hit a big shot at the end for us with about 30 seconds left. They decided to take the last shot and fortunately we were able to hang on.”
“We do go to Piketon tomorrow,” laughed Coach Rolfe when asked as to how he plans to prepare for Minford. “But for Minford it will be the same game plan we had last time. We just can’t shoot 23% from the field. It’s not a different game plan. We were getting the shots we wanted we just couldn’t make them. We still managed to climb back in it and lose by two. Hopefully we don’t spot them 11 points in the first quarter and have to play catch up again. If we can jump out, like tonight, and play with a lead it will be a lot easier on us. But, I’m very happy tonight. It was a great win, a great atmosphere and there were a ton of people here. The competition level was great and both of our teams will be better going into the next game.”
Box Score 1 2 3 4 F
Wheelersburg 12 13 16 23 64
Valley 19 15 20 11 65
Wheelersburg: Davis 14, Lotspeich 13, Holden 12, Coleman 11, Bivens 6, Newsome 4, Lewis 4
Valley: Rolfe 23, Romenello 15, Linne 11, Howard 10, Breech 3, Wolford 3
Reach Derrick Parker at [email protected] or on twitter @DC__Parker