MURTAUGH – For the first time since 2012, and the first time since switching classifications, Valley cut down some basketball nets Tuesday night.
The Vikings smothered top-seeded Oakley on defense and held the prolifically hot-shooting Hornets without a single three-point field goal. After an offensive struggle in the first half that saw the teams combine for just 21 points, second-seeded Valley took the lead at the 6:40 mark of the third quarter and never looked back.
“We were feeling each other out in first half. In the second, we hit some shots and one possession at a time, we were able to string together stops on defense and points on offense,” said Valley head coach Brian Hardy. “You could see the confidence building in our players’ eyes in the third quarter. You could see it growing.”
Just two weeks ago, in the final game of the regular season, Valley handed Oakley its first conference loss, beating the Hornets by 19 points in Hazelton. During the regular season, Oakley scored fewer than 45 points just twice in a game; both times were against Valley.
The District IV Championship marks the third such occasion.
“Oakley did that to us last year. They got us in the last game of the year, then beat us in the tournament. I think getting that last regular season game gave our guys some confidence and familiarity,” said Hardy.
Four different players scored at least nine points for Valley, led by sophomore Zane Mussmann with 12 and senior Bryce Tvrdy with 10.
“We have to share the ball to be at our best. We have a really unselfish group of guys, and no one minds to take a back seat and let someone else score,” said Hardy.
Sophomore Gannon Critchfield led Oakley with eight points.
“We had some looks, but shots just didn’t go down. I’m not sure I thought I’d see us get held without a three-pointer in a game this year,” said Oakley assistant coach Kevin Morrison.
Oakley bumps to the second-place game, where it will play third-seeded Raft River Thursday at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will play a state tournament play-in game on Saturday.
Valley 44, Oakley 26
Valley; 8; 2; 13; 21;- 44
Oakley; 8; 3; 7; 8;- 26
Mussmann 12, Fenton 9, Christensen 9, Tvrdy 10, Hardy 4 Totals: 20 2-4 44
Critchfield 8 Robinson 4, Jones 4, Beck 4, Martin 6 Totals: 8 10-14 26
3-point goals: Valley 2 (Fenton, Christensen) Oakley (None) Team fouls: Valley 8, Oakley 9 Fouled out: None.