Water Valley Runs Away From Laneville in Second Half of Class A Division II Title Game
AUSTIN — The Laneville Yellow Jackets carried an 18-game winning streak into Saturday night’s Class A Division II state championship game.
They finally met their match.
Water Valley used a huge third quarter to pull away from Laneville to capture the state title with a 68-44 win before 10,432 fans at the Frank Erwin Center.
The Wildcats (29-5), who were knocked out in last season’s state semifinals by Laneville’s district foe Douglass, broke open what was a five-point game at halftime with near-perfect execution on the offensive end, an aggressiveness on the glass and a defensive tenacity that was just too much for Laneville (33-7) to counteract.
“I’m proud of our guys and what we’ve done,” said Laneville coach Hosea Lee. “We were on an 18-game winning streak and it was our 40th game. We’ve had a long season and I was asking my guys in practice today if we had one more in us, but we got beat by a very good basketball team.”
Four Water Valley players reached double figures in scoring, and the only one who didn’t was senior point guard Connor Copley, who flirted with a triple-double by finishing with nine points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He was voted the state title game’s Most Valuable Player.
“He does a great job of distributing the ball, a very unselfish kid,” said Water Valley coach Andy Copley, Connor’s father. “He doesn’t score a lot of points but averages over eight assists. He does a great job of getting us into what we need to at the right time.”
Trae Hannon led Water Valley with 16 points, and added nine rebounds and four assists. Kellen Kirkland added 14 points and 11 boards, while Brock Demere and Cameron Copley had 13 points apiece.
Hannon and the Wildcats defense held down Laneville senior guard Donta Harris, who erupted for eight 3-pointers and 30 points in the Yellow Jackets’ semifinal win Friday night. Harris had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting on Saturday.
“They asked me before the game what we were going to do to (Harris),” Coach Copley said. “I said we were going to match up with him and not give him open shots. I told Trae to stay tight and be conscious of where he’s at … just don’t allow the kid to score, don’t allow the kid to beat us. We had too much on the line to allow that kid to go off like he did last night.”
Laneville got into foul trouble with 6-5 post Ty Johnson, Tra Alexander and Kendrick Anderson picking up three fouls each in the first half. Johnson and Anderson were both called for charges very early in the third quarter, which fed into Water Valley’s game-changing run.
“It takes away a lot, it takes away their aggressiveness,” Lee said of his players’ foul troubles. “We were tentative in the post and we didn’t do a good job of rebounding. They killed us on the boards tonight.”
Water Valley outrebounded Laneville 43-25 for the game, and held a 16-2 edge on second-chance points.
After shooting just 33 percent from the floor in the opening half, Water Valley began the third quarter on fire and was 15-of-25 (60 percent) in the second half.
“In games like these every possession is crucial,” said Connor Copley. “We feel like any basket can change a game. We got some stops and made a few baskets to kinda open up the game.”
Water Valley led Laneville 30-25 at halftime, but began the third quarter on a 15-4 run to build a 45-29 lead with 3:32 to play until the fourth. And Kirkland’s 3-pointer at the end of the third ballooned the Wildcats’ advantage to 55-37.
“We always talk about the most important part of the game is the beginning of the first quarter and the beginning of the third quarter,” said Lee, whose team trailed 17-8 at the end of the first period. “And it was just one of those situations where they might’ve scored the first three or four baskets and it kinda got away from us. We play similar styles and they did a good job of spreading us out, and they did a great job of passing the ball … they’re just a good basketball team. We got beat by a good basketball team tonight.”
Laneville, which made 12 3-pointers in the semifinal win, were cold from the field all night. The ‘Jackets were just 1-of-12 from beyond the arc and shot 31.5 percent for the game, including a 7-for-24 performance in the second half.
“I’ll give them credit for what they do, but we just didn’t make shots,” Lee said. “I think they drew a lot of charges, which is frustrating, especially when we’re a drive-and-kick team. We work on jump shots almost every single day in practice. They did a good job of taking charges, which took a lot of our aggressiveness away in going to the basket.”
Anderson led Laneville with 13 points to go with five rebounds and two blocks. Alexander added 10 points, three boards and two steals and Tiarel Franklin chipped in with eight points in the loss.
“From an offensive standpoint we didn’t do a good job … I’ve always allowed our kids to just play,” Lee said. “Sometimes I don’t like to call a timeout because I want them to go through things, and maybe I should’ve used my timeouts.”
No. 4 Water Valley 68, No. 2 Laneville 44
Boys Class A Division II State Championship Game
At Frank Erwin Center, Austin
Laneville 8 17 12 7 — 44
Water Valley 17 13 25 13 — 68
LANEVILLE (33-7) — Kendrick Anderson, 13; Tra Alexander, 10; Donta Harris, 9; Tiarel Franklin, 8; Ty Johnson, 4.
WATER VALLEY (29-5) — Trae Hannon, 16; Kellan Kirkland, 14; Cameron Copley, 13; Brock Demere, 13; Connor Copley, 9; Tanner Counts, 2; Devan Glass, 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS — Laneville: Harris. Water Valley: Connor Copley (2), Demere (2), Kirkland (2), Cameron Copley.