GRANITEVILLE — The Midland Valley High School boys' basketball team opened Region 5-AAA play at home Friday and made a strong statement in the first quarter of a 46-24 win over Gilbert.

The Mustangs (10-6, 1-0) dominated their visitors on both ends of the court in the 18-5 first quarter. They played stifling defense, holding the Indians (3-7, 0-1) scoreless for more than 7 minutes at the start of the game. This allowed Midland Valley to build a 13-point lead and put the game out of reach before much time had even passed.

“It was good, the pressure was good,” Mustangs head coach Mark Snelgrove said of his team, which blitzed Gilbert with a new-look full-court press from the get-go that had it out of whack and led to easy scoring opportunities in transition. “We're trying new stuff. It looks promising but we have a lot of work to do.”

The front of the press was spearheaded by diminutive but relentless guards Latrell Lee and Jaquan Hall. The sub-6-foot players are shorter than almost any opponent they face, but utilize their speed to get in the face and comfort zone of opposing ball handlers. When they weren't able to disrupt the Indians, the Mustangs' back line was anchored by Javoddis Coach and Kameron Brown, who rotated well and closed any open looks while dominating the glass to limit Gilbert to one shot per possession.

“Our biggest asset is our quickness. We try to take advantage and play full court to speed them up,” Snelgrove said of the defense. “We're trying to take it to the next level with multiple defenses.”

Midland Valley led 30-14 at the half and the outcome was never in doubt. The pace of play changed in the second half as the Mustangs lacked a killer instinct with such a large lead and looked more to kill the clock rather than execute their offense. The 16-point second half didn't thrill Snelgrove, who knows his team will need to be at its best when it faces tougher Region 5-AAA foes like Airport, Strom Thurmond and Swansea, which it will host on Tuesday.

“In the second half, we knew we were going to win and were dead,” Snelgrove said, although he admitted going all the way to the end of his bench allowed for some inconsistency. “We didn't put the hammer down and were lackluster. We haven't had 32 good minutes this season.”

Kameron Brown scored all eight of his points in the first half and was the game's leading scorer. Daniel Carr, Jaquan Hall and Djuan Green each added six points apiece.

GIL 5 9 3 7 – 24

MV 18 12 9 7 – 46

Gilbert (3-7, 0-1 Region 5-AAA)—Raymond Padgett 1 0-0 3, Jaylin Bright 3 1-2 7, Antoine Stroman 1 0-0 2, Meechie Stroman 1 0-0 3, Thomas Miller 2 0-0 5, Omar Bethea 1 0-0 2, Gage Smith 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 1-2 24.

3-Pointers: Padgett, Meechie Stroman, Miller.

Midland Valley (10-6, 1-0 Region 5-AAA)—Daniel Carr 3 0-0 6, Jaquan Hall 3 0-0 6, Latrell Lee 2 0-2 5, Justin Dunton 1 2-2 5, Jaysen Jones 2 0-0 4, Kameron Brown 4 0-0 8, Djuan Green 1 4-4 6, Richard Knight 1 0-0 2, Javoddis Coach 1 2-4 4. Totals: 18 8-12 46.

3-Pointers: Lee, Dunton.


GRANITEVILLE — As the first half ended in the Midland Valley High School girls' basketball game against Gilbert, the Lady Mustangs were running sprints before making their way into the locker room. According to head coach Carl Prescott, the reception they received there was less enticing than extra running during the middle of a game.

“I gave them a talk at halftime,” Prescott said of his team which he described as sluggish after the first half ended, with Midland Valley leading 11-9.

Whatever combination of words and tone Prescott used worked like a charm, as the Lady Mustangs looked like an entirely different team in the game's final 16 minutes, pulling away for a 37-24 win the Region 5-AAA opener.

The Lady Mustangs (4-11, 1-0) surpassed their first-half point total in the 15-point third quarter, using a 9-2 spurt in the first few minutes following intermission to put the game out of reach. The surge was propelled by Midland Valley's defense, which forced a number of turnovers. They actually had several steals in the first half, the difference in the rally was the Lady Mustangs converted their scoring opportunities in the third and fourth quarters.

“We scored in transition and the defense came alive in the full-court press,” Prescott said of his team, which was led by Alexis Bates' game-high 17 points. “Bates put it together in the second half.”

Bates was the only player to score in double figures, but seven other players found their way into the scorebook for Midland Valley, which will return to action on Tuesday when they host Swansea.

GIL 6 3 7 8 – 24

MV 4 7 15 11 – 37

Gilbert (6-5, 0-1 Region 5-AAA)—Miracle Wise 2 2-4 6, Morgan Smith 2 0-0 4, Kelsey Hancock 1 2-4 4, Ashtin Edwards 1 0-0 2, Katie Tetanich 3 0-0 6, Jasmine Wilkerson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 4-8 24.

Midland Valley (4-11, 1-0 Region 5-AAA)—Christen Dunbar 1 0-2 3, Brittany Campbell 2 0-2 4, Gracie Gunter 1 1-4 3, Janisha Prescott 1 1-2 3, Alexis Bates 6 5-5 17, Tiara Chandler 1 0-0 2, Jaleigh Elison 1 0-0 3, Amber Abney 1 1-5 3, Erin Cunningham 0 0-1 0. Totals: 14 8-21 37.

3-Pointers: Dunbar.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.