By Taylor Welsh. January 29, 2018. BOONE, NC — Semifinal games in any sport make for a great contest, regardless of prior results during the regular season. In Lentz Eggers Gym on Monday night, the Middle School semifinal basketball bouts were filled with back and forth dog fights, fourth quarter rallies and a sheer will to win.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
But in the game of the night during the Monday madness’ final contest, both Valle Crucis and Bethel gave the roaring crowd on both sides of the court a game to remember, which ended in Valle Crucis’ favor, 48-43.
Both teams began with a full-court press, defending sideline to sideline for the entire first stanza, sparking a high level of intensity immediately after the tip-off. However, this tactic was only successful for one team—Bethel.
But after a strategic time out by Valle Crucis’ head coach Art Williamson and a quick pep talk with 4:36 to go in the second quarter, the Cougars’ showed no mercy to the Demons, scoring the next 10 points within 30 seconds of the timeout, starting with a contested 3-pointer from Brooks Howser and ending with two backcourt steals and three consecutive layups by Landon Johnson to tie the game 16-16. The rally stunned Bethel and gave momentum to the Cougars.
Valle Crucis took its first lead of the game after point guard Cole Trivette hit a difficult layup with 2:52 left in the first half to take a 18-16 lead before fighting for a one-point advantage heading into the locker room, 22-21.
Although it was the swift comeback that helped Valle Crucis get back in the game, it was their aggressive offensive tactics that aided their place on top with the lead. With an attacking offensive scheme early in the first half, Valle Crucis forced Bethel to foul twice as much as they did, totaling 10 fouls in the half, three of which came from Bethel’s center Grant Lawrence, who had to sit a majority of the second quarter because of foul trouble. In the second half, the Cougars continued to push the ball in the paint, forcing Lawrence to foul out with 2:14 left in the final quarter. At the time Lawrence fouled out, Bethel had a 43-42 lead. It soon evaporated after Valle Crucis’ Trivette hit a 3-point dagger with 1:18 remaining, giving the Cougars a 48-43 victory and a ticket to the finals.
Valle Crucis’ Clement Heistand tallied a team-high 14 points, while teammate Nic Stewart finished with 12. Bethel’s Bailey Younce led both teams with 23 points.
SLIDESHOW — BOYS: Valle Crucis vs. Bethel
Parkway 60 – 38 Hardin Park
On the other side of the Boys bracket, Parkway and Hardin Park collided in a riveting hardwood classic that—despite the score—nearly ended in nail-biting fashion for the crowd. But with Luke Lentz’s 26 points and 17 points from Parkway teammate Jonah Martin, the Patriots were able to keep Hardin Park at bay, defeating the Eagles 60-38.
It’s one thing to come back from being down by as much as 20 points and narrowing the deficit to 12 right before the fourth quarter even starts. And it’s another thing to head into that final stanza with a miraculous 3-point buzzer beater.
But for Hardin Park it was a perfect recipe for a massive come back.
At least that was the plan. After the first quarter, Parkway pulled away with a 21-5 lead, but with lock down defense and consistent shots falling, Hardin Park rallied from a 20-point deficit to make the score 40-25 and with 1.2 seconds to go in the first half, Hardin Park’s Chase Perry caught a tipped rebound behind the arc and lobbed a high arching 3-pointer that soared up and in, hitting nothing but nylon. The miracle play prompted the partisan Hardin Park crowd to erupt with hope as they squared off against Parkway down 12 heading into the fourth quarter.
But Parkway adjusted, pounding the ball down low to Jonah Martin to start the stanza, connecting on his first three shots and keeping the hard charging Golden Eagles from thinning their modest lead. Martin finished the game with 17 points.
Though Hardin Park kept it interesting, they couldn’t get over the 10-0 run they gave up in the initial minutes of the game, losing 60-38 after being forced to foul for the final two minutes.
Parkway will face Valle Crucis in the finals on Thursday, February 1st.
Edited by David Rogers