MIDLAND VALLEY 52 AIRPORT 51
GRANITEVILLE — Midland Valley head coach Mark Snelgrove wasn't pleased with his defense's performance for most of Tuesday's game against Airport (18-4, 9-1 Region 5-AAA). However, during a timeout with the Mustangs trailing by one point with 44 seconds left, he implored his team to play defense the way he knew they could.
It worked out for the Mustangs, as Stephon Morency stole the inbound pass and found Tayler Wade in the paint for the go-ahead basket with 38 seconds left. After the defense forced another turnover, Daniel Carr stretched the lead with two free throws, and Midland Valley (21-4, 8-2 Region 5-AAA) held on for a 52-52 victory in the season finale.
“I told them, 'Just play good defense,' which we didn't do all night,” Snelgrove said “But I told the team to sit down in front of them and let them make the mistake; don't reach and grab for everything. I also said the only way to win is to stop them and get to the basket because we hadn't been hitting any jump shots all night.”
Airport took advantage of the Mustangs' misfortune shooting the ball. Midland Valley led 13-8 after the first quarter, but a 13-0 run by Airport gave the Eagles a lead they would hold until Wade's shot fell in the final minute. Snelgrove said despite the victory he wasn't pleased with his team's performance all around. He was left hoping that it would serve as a wakeup call for his guys. The game didn't change anything in the standings — Midland Valley was already locked into the No. 2 spot in Region 5-AAA – but it affected the way Snelgrove looked at his team going forward.
“You've got to come ready to play. It doesn't matter who they stick on the court,” Snelgrove said after the game in which Airport's reserves saw most of the playing time. “Last night, we played really well against Strom Thurmond. We were where we should've been. Tonight, we weren't rotating, they were shooting layups most of the night, and our on-ball defense was terrible.”
The close result had Snelgrove contemplating some changes to his lineup. The two players who connected on the go-ahead basket were guys he was pleased to see performing well. He credited Wade and Morency for keyed the run for Midland Valley. The Mustangs' leading scorer was freshman Devon Young, who scored 11, including a dunk over an Airport defender that got the crowded Midland Valley student section on their feet.
Young was the only Midland Valley player in double figures on the night. Kameron Brown was next in line with eight. Daniel Carr was held scoreless until crunch time. The point guard scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter. Several came over the final 2:30 of the game when Midland valley erased Airport's nine-point lead.
“Well, maybe we need to reexamine the starting lineup a bit,” Snelgrove said. “We had some key contributors who came off the bench to spark that final run. Stephon really gets after it on defense. I probable should've put Tayler in sooner than I did. He plays good defense, and he can score around the basket.”
Midland Valley turned to his reserves out of what he called desperation. He wants his team to revert to the way it played against Strom Thurmond. The Mustangs will host Lakewood in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs on Thursday.
Midland Valley 13 7 14 18
Airport 8 18 13 12
Midland Valley: Daniel Carr 2 3-4 7, Taylor Wade 3 0-0 6, Broderick Brown 1 0-0 2, Devon Young 3 5-7 11, Taijha Turner 3 0-0 7, Kameron Brown 4 0-0 8, Djuan Green 1 1-2 3, Stephon Morency 1, 0-0 2, Miles Gilmore 1 0-2 2, Aaron Ray 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 9-15 52.
Airport: Benton Breeden 4 1-3 9, Keyshawn James 2 1-6 6, Kevin Dennis 3 0-0 6, Alphonso Tucker 5 0-0 10, Tyshawn Thomas 2 0-0 4, Devon Goldwire 1 1-2 3, Jaylon Cakley 6 0-1 13. Totals 23 3-12 51.
3-Pointers: James, Cakley
GIRLSAIRPORT 46 MIDLAND VALLEY 35
Midland Valley's girls' basketball team (8-15, 5-5 Region 5-AAA) suffered a 46-35 loss to Region 5-AAA foe Airport. The Mustangs got off to a slow start in both halves of the game. Airport held them to five points in the first quarter and six in the third. Midland Valley rallied late in to start the fourth quarter, but could only manage to cut the lead to five points before Airport pulled away.
Midland Valley will now open the Class AAA playoffs on the road on Thursday against a team that has yet to be determined.
Airport 15 13 2 16—46
Midland Valley 5 12 6 12—35
Airport: Syneia Fludd 1 0-2 2, Kalita Williams 3 0-0 6, Kayla Sutton 2 0-0 4, Mikaila Kennedy 1 0-0 3, J. Ellison 1 0-0 3, L. Conyer 1 0-0 2, K. Mousell 2 0-0 5, K. Muller 1 3-4 5, S. Jennings 8 0-0 16.
3-pointers: Kennedy, Ellison
Midland Valley: Christen Dunbar 1 0-0 2, Gracie Gunter 4 2-3 12, Keielana Smith 2 4-4 8, Amber Abney 5 1-5 11, Kiera Blocker 1 0-0 2.
+ Gunter (2)