In a game where neither team could secure a comfortable lead for long, the Midland Valley boys’ basketball team prevailed over South Aiken 47-42 on Friday.
Perhaps the reason the visiting Mustangs (7-3) came out on top was because they’re used to this type of game. Head coach Mark Snelgrove said that, unlike in years past, his team has gotten comfortable winning close, gritty games.
“All our games are like that,” he said. “Number one, we depend on defense. ... Our offense isn’t spectacular, so we tend to play close games.”
The T-Breds (2-5) got out front early and led 12-9 after the first quarter. They actually extended their lead to 17-11 before a 7-0 run by the Mustangs put them ahead 18-17 just before the half.
The Mustang defense made a rare mistake at the buzzer, though, fouling senior guard Richard Davis as he took a last-ditch 3-point try to finish the half. He made two of three free throws to give the home team a 19-18 halftime lead, but the star of the first half was Latrell Brown. The sophomore’s eight points led all scorers, and he was able to make an impact because of his play in the paint, according to T-Bred head coach Drew Jernigan.
“He played great,” Jernigan said of Brown. “He’s active around the net.”
The Mustangs came out in the second half firing on all offensive cylinders for a stretch, taking off on a 9-0 run for a 27-19 lead that temporarily stole the game’s momentum. Snelgrove had an explanation for why the cushion was short-lived.
“It was big,” he said of the first-half run. “Only thing is, we gave it right back with dumb plays.”
He went on to say that he was pleased with his team’s efforts physically but that the mental aspect of Midland Valley’s game left a lot to be desired at times.
“Our defense was very active today,” he said. “We’ve got to work on thinking, basically.”
The visitors’ gaffes opened the door for South Aiken, and the T-Breds charged through, cutting the lead to three at 32-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
Behind a continued strong effort from Brown and a couple big shots from junior Jordan Dingle, South Aiken stayed in the ball game, cutting the lead back to three late after Midland Valley had pushed it to a consistent five-point margin for much of the fourth quarter.
Still, each time the T-Breds threw a punch, Midland Valley fired right back, usually with sophomore forward Kameron Brown or freshman guard Daniel Carr. Brown finished with 11 points, all in the second half, and Carr led the Mustangs with 15 points for the game.
Carr did most of his damage cutting to the basket for closer-range shots, an adjustment Snelgrove emphasized at halftime after his team had been settling for too many jumpers.
He said Carr was crucial to the Mustangs’ success because, while he isn’t the team’s best pure shooter, he might be the best at doing exactly what Midland Valley needed – drives to the basket.
“Generally, he’s critical because he’s our best actual scorer,” Snelgrove said of the freshman. “He can create and get into the lane.”
In the game’s closing moments, the home team got its chances to cut the Mustang lead to one point or closer but couldn’t convert. While Jernigan recognized the lack of execution cost the T-Breds, he was more than pleased with his team’s tenacity in the loss.
“Tonight was the best effort we’ve had yet,” he said. “We told the fellas that. ... They did not lose that game on effort.”
The T-Breds will get another chance to get in the win column again on Monday when they host Greenbrier (Ga.), while Midland Valley will hit the road to play Silver Bluff on Tuesday.
MV 9 9 14 15 – 47
SA 12 7 10 13 - 42
Midland Valley (7-3)—Daniel Carr 7 1-1 15, Latrell Lee 1 0-0 3, Javoddis Coach 2 1-2 5, Kameron Brown 4 3-4 11, Jaquan Hall 2 0-0 6, Jaysen Jones 1 0-0 2, Djuan Green 2 0-1 5. Totals 19 5-8 47.
3-pointers: Hall (2), Lee, Green
South Aiken (2-5)—Austin Kyles 3 1-2 7, Jordan Dingle 4 0-0 8, Latrell Brown 8 0-1 16, Abram Elam 0 0-1 0, Jordan Scott 2 0-0 4, Taijha Turner 1 0-0 2, Richard Davis 1 2-3 5, Jared Hanna 0 0-2 0 . Totals 19 3-9 42.
SOUTH AIKEN GIRLS 59, MIDLAND VALLEY 45
Early in the game, nothing was clicking offensively for South Aiken, even though the T-Breds (4-1) led after the first quarter. Nothing except the team’s free-throw shooting.
In all, South Aiken made its first 11 attempts from the charity stripe to lead 27-14 at the half and finished the game 16-of-21 (.762). Head coach Erin Brinkley said free-throw shooting played a big role in her team’s win over the Mustangs (1-5).
“The ballgame,” she said. “Free throws were the ball game tonight.”
Midland Valley didn’t give up, winning the third quarter 15-12 to go into the fourth quarter down 10. The Mustangs cut the lead to single digits on a few occasions but could never get the necessary baskets to finish the comeback, despite a 21-point effort from Christen Dunbar.
Still, head coach Carl Prescott said his team showed him a couple things in the loss.
“It was real good for the program,” he said. “When (the T-Breds) came to Midland Valley, they shut us down. ... I saw a lot of maturity and a lot of growth.”
South Aiken’s Kyasia Youmans scored a game-high 26 points as her team’s “only offensive threat,” in Brinkley’s estimation. Despite the win, Brinkley wasn’t impressed with her team’s execution overall.
“Tonight, we fell apart on everything we did,” she said.
The T-Breds will get an opportunity to avenge their only loss on Monday when they host Greenbrier (Ga.), while Midland Valley will travel to play Silver Bluff on Tuesday.