By Steve Keenan
Fayette Tribune Sports Editor
As it had all season, defense helped lift the Valley Greyhounds to their third straight boys Fayette County middle school basketball championship Friday.
The Greyhound boys found themselves in a 10-point hole early before rallying for a 38-33 defeat of Collins to conclude a 16-3 campaign.
“The defense was the key the whole season,” said Valley assistant coach John Whitt. “(With shooting that wasn’t the best at times) We had to play good defense.”
Boys tournament MVP Tracy Conliffe led Valley with 13 points and 17 rebounds, while Nathan Kincaid contributed 12 points — all on 3-point field goals — and had five boards. Devin Williams collected five points, five rebounds and four steals.
“This one means a lot more to us, because nobody gave us a chance,” said Whitt. “These kids worked hard all season, and we got it done.”
Collins pulled to within 31-30 on a Michael Martin 3-pointer with under 2:00 remaining, but a turnover with 1:10 to play gave Valley an opportunity, and Kincaid stepped up with a crucial 3-pointer from the left corner, making it 34-30 with 0:57 to go. The lead grew to 36-31 on a pair of free throws by Spencer Dean, then Williams canned both ends of a one-and-one with 10 seconds left to give Valley its final margin.
“(The week before) we found out we were going to be down another guy,” said CMS coach Andy Kees, whose team had to readjust its lineup due to losing another starter (Collins finished the year with only two of its original starters still playing). “But that’s part of it. It’s not an excuse for losing.
“It was a tale of two halves. We executed and ran our offense and (played pretty well defensively) in the first half. Then, Valley went on a little run and we started pressing a little bit and got tight.”
Collins didn’t help itself by missing eight of its 13 free throw attempts and misfiring on several easy shots, Kees added.
“Tracy played great, Nate Kincaid stepped up big and had a huge three, and Spencer and Devin were 4-for-4 from the foul line in the last 15 seconds,” said Whitt.
The Little Devils (8-10) were led by a game-high 21-point effort by Martin, which included a trio of 3-pointers. Sixth-grader Khori Bass added 10.
Collins led 10-9 after a Conliffe transition bucket midway through the second period, but the Little Devils later got five straight points from Bass to go ahead 19-9 with 1:38 left until halftime.
“We started out really slow and turned the ball over,” said Whitt. “As soon as they were up 10 we went on a little run.”
Valley — sparked by four straight Conliffe points — eventually pulled to within 22-20 and wound up leading 25-24 heading into the fourth period.
Whitt felt a 38-24 setback to Collins late in the regular season gave the ‘Hounds impetus for a successful postseason. “We all played bad against Collins at home. That loss was good for us; it got everyone’s attention.”
Fayetteville ended a successful 15-5 season by romping over Ansted 50-26 in the boys consolation.
Will Fenton paced the Pirates with 17 points, and Ricky Meadows and Micah Bates chipped in 11 each. Other scorers were: Dalton Dempsey, 4; Steve Price, 2; C.J. Dooley, 4; and Caleb Chamberlin, 1.
Jacob Allport led Ansted with seven markers. Other scorers were: Matt Skaggs, 3; Noah Minor, 4; James Carte, 2; Trent Browning, 2; Nathan Hanshew, 1; Colin Dempsey, 4; Austin Isaacs, 2; and Curtis Gray, 1.
In the semifinals, Valley endured a difficult challenge from Fayetteville before advancing by a 31-26 score.
“They jumped on us (the Pirates led 16-13 at halftime),” said Whitt.
The Greyhounds were led by 10 points and 16 rebounds from Conliffe and 10 points and six boards from Kincaid. Other scorers were: Jaylun Craig, 7; Ryan Copeland, 2; and Dean, 2. Craig’s output included a “huge” three-point play in the final seconds with Valley clinging to a two-point lead.
Fenton led Fayetteville with 11 points. Also in the scoring column were: Dalton Dempsey, 5; Marcus Lively, 7; Meadows, 2; and Bates, 1.
“We played great defense,” said Whitt, who praised Williams for his prevent efforts against Meadows.
Tracy Conliffe 6 1-4 13, Nathan Kincaid 4 0-0 12, Devin Williams 1 3-8 5, Jaylun Craig 2 0-0 4, Spencer Dean 1 2-2 4, Ryan Copeland 0 0-1 0. Totals: 14 6-15 38.
Michael Martin 8 2-4 21, Khori Bass 3 3-6 10, Jacob Cassidy 1 0-0 2, William Gibson 0 0-3 0. Totals: 12 5-13 33.
V 5 11 9 13 — 38
C 8 12 4 9 — 33