By Steve Keenan
The second time around, Valley wasn’t to be denied.
Having lost for the first — and only — time so far this season, 49-46 to Fayette County foe Midland Trail on Jan. 3, the Class A No. 8 Greyhounds were in search of some redemption when they invaded the Patriots’ home gym Tuesday.
It took the ‘Hounds a little while to get cranked up, but they got the payback they sought in the form of a 71-46 drubbing of section foe Midland Trail.
A ragged first half saw Valley take the early lead only to see the Patriots — eyeing a second upset — move into a 13-10 cushion on Seth Crosier’s inbound deuce early in the second frame. An 8-0 spurt — which included a four-point play by Henry Barron-Houchins after a Midland Trail turnover — put Valley back in the lead, 18-13, and the ‘Hounds eventually led 24-16 at the intermission.
Valley (12-1) put the hammer down in the third period to take control. Working the inside and the corners with success, the ‘Hounds registered 16 of the game’s next 22 points to secure a 40-22 cushion with 2:47 left in the third. The lead was 15, 45-30, after three quarters.
During an 8-0 spurt that created the 18-point spread, Druw Bowen scored from the corner off a Tracy Conliffe assist, Zac Warden scored on a putback and on a turnaround goal in the paint, and Raeshawn Breckenridge finished off a nice drive in the lane for two more points.
Warden finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots to power the VHS attack.
“This win is big,” said Warden, who missed the first Trail game while serving a two-game suspension following a game ejection. “Talk has been going around the county that we couldn’t beat Trail.
“I was confident.”
“Starting out, we couldn’t hit a bucket, but we played our basketball (in the second half),” he added. “We forced the tempo and we got the rebounds.”
Bowen, like Warden a sophomore, tallied 17 points before fouling out.
“We got it down low a lot more in the second half, and that helped us a lot,” Bowen said.
Barron-Houchins added 14 points to the Valley cause, and Breckenridge enjoyed a solid all-around performance, scoring eight points, grabbing eight rebounds, passing out five assists and blocking three shots. Keyshawn Payne contributed five points and five assists.
Midland Trail trimmed the deficit to 11, 47-36, on Cyrus Jackson’s fast break bucket with 6:52 left, but Bowen responded with two straight scores on the interior following Breckenridge assists to ignite a 10-0 Valley surge that put the game out of reach.
“We had trouble rebounding in the second half; they’re big,” said Midland Trail coach Curtis Miller. “We could not make shots.
“We missed layups and foul shots.”
“We played hard and didn’t give up,” Miller continued. “They’re a good team; it’s not like we lost to a bad team.
“It’s 1-1 now, and I’m ready for sectionals now.”
“Coming into the second half, we knew we had to go down inside,” said Valley coach Joe McCoy. “The boys got a little uptight when we missed a few shots outside, and their (Trail’s) defense was pretty good.
“We knew we had to start pounding the ball down low.”
Rickie Carter led the Patriots with 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:44 to play. Jackson and Crosier chipped in eight points each.
Valley hosts Greenbrier West at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the third round of the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament.
Midland Trail (7-7) seeks to snap a three-game losing skid when it plays at Cameron in the WVHIT on Saturday.