By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
It’s not a closely-guarded secret — Valley prefers to go up-tempo.
And, in the Class A Region 3, Section 2 boys basketball championship Friday, the Greyhounds fed off the energy from a packed house which featured a raucous crowd to get even more into the flow of the game.
Amidst the charged atmosphere, the Greyhounds responded, holding off a late Greenbrier West surge with a critical 6-0 run en route to a 60-53 triumph to claim the Section 2 crown.
“That was an excellent atmosphere,” said Valley coach Joe McCoy. “When we walked out, my ear drums were vibrating. And the boys fed off (the energy). West got on us quick, but they never quit.”
Valley took a 50-41 lead on an Arik McGinnis 3-pointer 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers weren’t done. Two points each from Corey Cox, Alex Hendrix and Josh Martin trimmed the deficit to 50-47, before the Greyhounds answered with two straight buckets from freshman Zac Warden - one on a putback and the other on a spinning move in the lane - to push the margin out to seven, 54-47.
West later got back to within three points, 54-51, on an inside deuce by Zach Johnson, but the Cavaliers’ Hendrix missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have gotten them even closer, opening the door for Valley’s final push.
McGinnis found freshman teammate Druw Bowen (12 points) ahead of the pack for a two-point goal after Warden rebounded the miss by Hendrix, then McGinnis fed an unguarded Bowen on an inbound pass, with the resulting goal pushing the margin to 58-51 with 32.5 seconds left.
Keyshawn Payne canned both ends of a one-and-one with 25.9 seconds to go to allow the ‘Hounds to close it out.
Warden, averaging about 12 points a game this season, finished with 25 points, including 19 in the middle two quarters, to pace the Valley attack.
Warden said he can carry his share of the offensive load, but he also said he likes to keep his teammates involved. He called the game “one of the craziest” he’d been involved with. “Hopefully, we can keep it going next week.”
“Zac can shoot it,” said McCoy. “He had several big threes. He holds his own out there.”
McGinnis, who finished with 13 points, said, “We hustled and played with energy. We know if we can get the ball out and get up and down the court, we’ll be fine.”
“Their speed and (West making) a couple of turnovers down the stretch (hurt the Cavaliers),” said Greenbrier West coach Joey Fitzwater. “We kept battling back.” But, he added, missed shots and Valley’s work on the boards made things tougher for West in the closing stages.
“It’s hard down here, but we were ready. We missed some shots down the stretch and didn’t execute when we needed to. Give them credit.”
Powered by Martin’s early success, the Cavaliers led 10-2 before Valley used a 10-0 run to close the opening quarter ahead 21-13. The hosts led 33-23 on Warden’s turnaround fadeaway in the lane at the 3:02 mark, but the Cavaliers got a deuce from Martin, two free throws from Brandon Gwinn and a deuce by Jarod Jennings off a Valley miscue to trail by just four points, 33-29, at halftime.
Martin scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the opening two quarters, but Valley’s defense stiffened on him in the second half. McCoy praised the defensive play of Cody Winter and Bowen on Martin. “You hold Martin down and you’ve got a shot against them,” he said he told his players.
“He (Martin) was hurting us,” Warden said. “We had to keep battling down low.”
Raeshawn Breckenridge scored eight points for Valley, which included four straight points off West turnovers near the end of the third period that handed Valley a 47-39 advantage. “We pushed the ball, and that helped some,” said Breckenridge. “And we got rebounds and shots when we needed. We played with more intensity (in the second half).”
Valley (17-7) will entertain Class A No. 6 Greater Beckley Christian at 7 p.m. next Thursday in a Region 3 co-final.
Greenbrier West (17-6) will travel to face No. 1 Tug Valley in the other co-final Thursday.
Greenbrier West (17-6)
Corey Cox 3 0-0 6, Austin Ransom 0 0-0 0, Chris Gabbert 0 0-0 0, Alex Hendrix 1 4-5 6, Pat Hendrix 0 0-0 0, Brandon Gwinn 1 4-4 6, Zach Johnson 2 0-0 4, Colby Ennis 3 0-0 6, Jarod Jennings 2 2-2 6, Josh Martin 8 3-6 19. Totals: 20 13-17 53.
Raeshawn Breckenridge 4 0-0 8, Zac Warden 9 4-4 25, Arik McGinnis 5 0-0 13, Henry Barron 0 0-0 0, Druw Bowen 5 2-2 12, Cody Winter 0 0-0 0, Keyshawn Payne 0 2-2 2, Dante Wilkerson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 8-8 60.
GW 13 16 12 12 — 53
V 21 12 14 13 — 60
3-point goals — GW: None; V: 6 (Warden 3, McGinnis 3). Fouled out - None.