Updated Wed, Mar 12, 2014 9:38 pm
The deafening cheers of the traveling Martins Ferry and Valley fans had filled the Convocation Center all night, but suddenly the gym was deathly silent. Martins Ferry’s R.J Burris fell to the ground clutching his ankle and grimacing in pain after a collision.
Burris, who was the Purple Raiders leading scorer at the time, wouldn’t come back and his absence and a lack of offensive production from the rest of Martins Ferry would punch the Valley Indians ticket to the regional finals with a 69-49 win.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Valley coach Scott Rolfe said of reaching the regional finals. “We’re just enjoying the ride and it’s attributed to this team—especially the eight seniors we have.
After Burris went down, there was a noticeable drop in the Purple Raiders production and Martins Ferry looked to put the ball into the paint more, with ill-effect. That was bad news for Division III Player of the Year Robert Vargo, who was held to 13 points and shot 6-of-15 from the field due to the stringent Valley defense.
Vargo looked visibly frustrated by the lack of space in the post and it showed in his shot selection, often wriggling in-between defenders and shooting turnaround jumpers to no avail. The offensive woes didn’t stop there, as the Purple Raiders gave up 13 turnovers to the waiting hands of the Indians.
Martins Ferry also chose to play a 1-3-1 matchup zone and Rolfe looked to capitalize with a lot of free-flowing passing along the perimeter that would make the San Antonio Spurs proud.
“A zone defense is always looking at the ball,” Rolfe said. “So we kind of attacked it from behind and a lot of times they didn’t see us making the cuts.”
The game was reasonably close in the first quarter but the Valley fans could smell the blood in the water as the Indians took a 19-12 lead into the second quarter. Valley would outscore the Purple Raiders in each of the four quarters, especially in the fourth when the Indians outscored Martins Ferry 21-13.
Valley also outpaced the Purple Raiders in rebounds, snagging 40 to Martin Ferry’s 22, and really cleaned up on the defensive end grabbing 26 defensive boards. Vargo grabbed half of Martin Ferry’s boards but unfortunately the next closest player was James Edwards with five.
Edwards led the team in points with 17 in the absence of Burris and Vargo recorded a double-double but it wasn’t enough to grab the win.
With the win, Valley returns to the Convo on Saturday, March 15 to face the Bishop Ready Knights for the regional championship crown.