Valley Center boys bounce back with win over Andover Central
ANDOVER Valley Center had five practices to decide what team it was going to be following an 18-point loss at home to Arkansas City on Jan. 3, a loss coach Ty Unrau called an embarrassment.
Faced with such adversity early in the season, Valley Center responded the way Unrau was hoping. Five straight intense practices rolled over to a gritty road performance on Tuesday, which translated to a 64-59 victory over Andover Central — a league foe Valley Center has struggled with for years — as both teams saw their record move to 3-4 on the season.
“It’s a big win for us,” Unrau said. “We had a week to get better and understand what this program is going to be about. Tonight we showed some maturity. (Andover Central) is a basketball program, so to get a win over them is a nice win that kind of picks us up a little bit. When you’re grinding in practice you want some justification for your hard work and this was it.”
It wasn’t a particularly elegant game, as 45 foul calls in total never allowed either team to establish much of an offensive rhythm.
Much like other teams following Tyler Brown’s 50-point outburst earlier this season, Andover Central employed its top defender, Xavier Bell, to play a physical brand of in-your-face, man-to-man defense that never allowed Brown more than a foot of breathing room. When Brown had the ball, Central often sent a second defender sprinting his way to force the ball out of his hands; when he didn’t, they did everything they could to deny him a return pass.
The goal of limiting Brown’s effectiveness from the field worked, as the junior struggled through a 5-for-14 performance that included six turnovers. But Brown used Andover Central’s eagerness to his advantage at times and made 11 of 12 free throws, still able to manufacture a game-high 21 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
“I thought Tyler did a lot of good things, even though there was a lot of adversity there,” Unrau said. “He’s going to get the best defensive effort from everybody we play, whether that’s sending two guys or denying him the ball back. I thought he made the right basketball plays tonight and I credit his unselfishness in the second half for a lot of the good things that happened for us.”
Meanwhile, Valley Center’s cast was able to capitalize on the openings afforded to them by Andover Central’s willingness to outright leave them all together to pursue Brown. Outside of Brown, Valley Center made 13 of 25 shots and connected on five three-pointers.
Wyatt Lange scored 17 points on just eight shots. Thayer Terwilliger chipped in with nine points off the bench, while sophomore Zach Williams scored nine points and led the team with six rebounds and Joe Petrakis added six points and five rebounds.
“It wasn’t just the guys we’re used to getting offensive effort from,” Unrau said. “It was Keyon Saunders coming up huge with some hustle plays. It was Zach Williams, a sophomore who was coming off the bench and now is starting. It was Joe Petrakis getting rebounds for us. We had a lot of guys step up tonight and perform.”
For Andover Central, it was a disappointing back-to-back loss following a 54-49 home defeat to Andover last Tuesday. After a strong start to league play, Andover Central now sits at 2-3 — behind Eisenhower, Andover, and Maize South.
The Jaguars, the consistent underdog when it comes to size, actually held their own when it came to rebounding, but could never produce consistent enough offense. Andover Central shot 37 percent (16 of 44) from the field and made just six three-pointers, an average amount but not typically the advantage it holds over its opponents from the three-point line.
Andover Central was also playing without its second leading scorer, sophomore Easton Leedom, who sat out with a concussion. Leedom’s availability for Thursday’s game against East and Friday’s game against Eisenhower was also in doubt.
Braden Belt led the Jaguars with 18 points, while Xavier Bell added 13 points and seven rebounds and Isaac Anthemides added 11 points.
VALLEY CENTER: T. Brown 21, W. Lange 17, Z. Williams 9, T. Terwilliger 9, J. Petrakis 6, K. Saunders 2.
ANDOVER CENTRAL: B. Belt 18, X. Bell 13, I. Anthemides 11, Je. Washington 5, Ja. Washington 5, N. Crawford 3, C. Taylor 2, P. Henry 2.