HV comes through at crunch time to beat Rebels

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   In a season scarred by close losses, Happy Valley got one to go its way Thursday evening taking a 40-35 non-conference win over Sullivan South.
   "We slowed the tempo and played the Warrior," said HV head coach Charlie Bayless. "They handled the ball real well. A lot of people think I run the Warrior just to freeze the ball. I'm not. When you have the floor spread, you can go one on one or hit somebody under the basket.
   "It's a perfect offense to run one on one. When we ran it early in the game, I told the boys if they could take to the basket, then take it."
   The outcome shouldn't have been that much of a surprise as the Warriors almost pulled off an upset earlier in the season on the Rebels' home court.
   "They outplayed us," remarked South head coach Mike Rogers. "We didn't deserve to win. We got a better effort at home, but we were lucky to win at home really. We didn't deserve it tonight. They played well."
   In the fourth quarter, when they were needed the most, Andrew Bowman and Stephen Williams took control with key scores for the Warriors. Up by two, Bowman nailed a 10-foot jumper from the right side that pushed the margin back to four.
   South's Matt Myers responded going strong to the basket to cut the lead to 37-35. After throwing the ball away with 19 seconds left in the game, HV broke the defensive press for an easy lay-up by Tim Whaley. Williams then added a steal and the game's final point at the free throw line.
   "We stepped up and made some big plays at the end to help us win," said Williams. "We've had a lot of heartbreakers this year, one and two point losses. It's nice to be on the winning side a couple of times. We haven't had many wins, but this one is one of the best we've had to play a Triple-A team and beat them. I thought it was a good win for us."
   Bowman also had a fine defensive effort, registering four steals in the game to go along with his timely baskets.
   "It was the first time we've seen the man to man (defense) in a while," said Bowman. "They put some guys up, but we got some good ball movement. We've been working pretty hard in practice and things paid off for us. I think we are starting to come together as a team a little better. We've had some close games against other teams and it's nice to be on the winning end this time."
   The game was close from the opening tip to the final horn with the Warriors' first lead coming 9-8 in the second quarter on a basket by John Bulla. A steal and assist by Cody Whitlock that Ryan Toney converted on the other end helped HV take the lead back again 13-12 later in the quarter. The game continued to go back and forth until the final HV surge in the fourth period.
   It was a much-needed win for the Warriors, now 5-19 on the season. South dropped to the .500 mark with a record of 13 wins and 13 losses.
   Bowman and Whaley each led Happy Valley's scoring with eight points apiece, while Williams added seven and Jordy Harrison six as the other offensive leaders. The Rebels' Myers was the only player to score in double figures on either side with 11. Aaron Robinette had eight and Aaron Hanks six in the losing effort.
   "I thought our defense played better," said Bayless. "Our defense has killed us all year, but I thought we really improved and went after the ball tonight. We played a zone defense, but we still put pressure on the ball."
   Maybe it was an omen that good things were to come earlier in the evening during the junior varsity contest. Trailing 60-35 going into the final quarter with coach Dickie Renfro considering emptying the bench, HV mounted an incredible comeback outscoring South 31-2 over the final eight minutes to win 66-62.
   Todd Caldwell led the Warrior JV with 15 points. Chris Rutledge scored 12, while Drew Davis and Ricky Morgan also hit double figures with each scoring 11 in the win.
   Happy Valley returns to action tonight, hosting Unaka, while South will hit the court again on Saturday when they face Sullivan Central.