Balance, defense keep Valley boys unbeaten
SMITHERS, W.Va. - Valley protected its perfect record Friday night, not with its far-from-perfect shooting, but because of a perfect blend of scoring balance and pressure defense.
Raeshawn Breckenridge led the way with 11 points and three steals and the unbeaten Greyhounds forced 21 turnovers in earning a 55-41 home victory against Greenbrier West in a matchup of state-ranked Class A teams.
Valley (5-0) entered the game ranked No. 9 in the Class A poll, one spot behind the Cavaliers (6-2).
"We've been preaching to our kids that this was a big game for us sectional-wise because they're in our section,'' said Greyhounds coach Joe McCoy. "The way we seed teams, this could go a long ways for us later on down the road.''
Valley, bogged down by 35.5 percent shooting in the first half, took the lead for good with an 11-2 run to close out the half, good for a 26-18 advantage at the break.
The Cavaliers cut it back to three points near the end of the third quarter, but were never within six points over the final six minutes,
"Their speed and quickness got to us,'' said West coach Joey Fitzwater, who watched Valley swipe the ball 11 times, many of them out of three-quarter-court pressure.
"We knew they'd do that. We played against them some in the summer league at Hico, and I came down and scouted them. They play that 1-2-2 chaser press and we just didn't handle pressure very well tonight. We've got to get people in the right place and run our sets. We tried to play slow and that didn't work and we tried to speed up and play a little man-to-man, but their quickness got us and they got a few easy buckets from our defense not being able to stop them.''
Valley got contributions from up and down its lineup.
Backing Breckenridge were Henry Barron (nine points), Zac Warden (eight points, 10 rebounds), Arik McGinnis (eight points), Druw Bowen (seven points), and Dante Wilkerson (six points, five rebounds).
"We're playing as a team,'' Breckenridge said. "We're playing good defense. Our shots wasn't falling, and we try not to get too frustrated when that happens. We had to go to our defense.''
McCoy got big efforts from every player off his bench, as McGinnis (a normal starter who was battling the flu), Wilkerson, Bowen and Keyshawn Payne combined for 24 points, eight rebounds and two steals and hit 9 of 16 shots, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Payne also chipped in a couple of key assists.
"Our shooting's not very good in early parts of the game,'' McCoy said, "but it is in the second half. We've got a mixture of young kids and kids with some experience and we try to play eight or nine.
"We knew we were going to be a little deep in the bench, and we were wanting to get our three freshmen [Barron, Warden, Bowen] some experience playing with some of our experienced kids, and try to utilize our quickness as best as possible.''
The stats weren't all glowing for Valley, which was outrebounded 38-30, committed 16 turnovers and continued its misery at the foul line by making just 3 of 9.
Alex Hendrix led Greenbrier West with 11 points and Josh Martin, a 6-foot-7, 175-pound senior, added 10 points, six rebounds and two steals. He threw down an emphatic slam dunk off a lob pass from the baseline. Zach Johnson came off the bench to grab nine rebounds.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.