LUCASVILLE — Waverly is a team most known for its athleticism alongside an arsenal of shooters around the floor.
However, the Tigers chose a different route on Tuesday with shots not falling in the first half.
Waverly decided to abandon its perimeter shooting and play bully ball in the paint. That proved to be the right decision as the Tigers dominated Tuesday’s second half to defeat Valley by a 65-54 final in SOC II action.
Not only did that mean the first loss of the season for Valley, but it also moved Waverly into a first place tie with the Indians and Minford atop the conference standings.
“Valley is a really good team. They have talent and return a lot of guys from last year, but they’re also young,” Waverly’s Will Futhey said. “With us, it’s different because we have the experience and we’ve played in these type of tight games before. Us six seniors have been playing together since we were little, so when we do come together and put together a solid full game, it’s hard to stop us.”
The change of plan meant more touches for Futhey underneath, and he did what he does best … dominate.
Playing with aggression and energy, the senior carved Valley’s interior with his 6-foot-5 frame, snatching rebounds at a premium and converting buckets left and right.
He scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, and grabbed 10 rebounds in the process.
“It was just a matter of us being aggressive. But I also knew that with Valley switching screens and us running guys off the baseline, I had an advantage underneath so I could turn around and seal to either get fouled or make the layup,” Futhey said. “We wanted to put the game back in our favor and we went inside to do so.”
However, to open the game, it was all Indians.
Despite not having played in two weeks due to weather and COVID cancellations, Valley was out and running early.
The Indians jumped to a quick 11-4 lead before back-to-back buckets from Waverly cut the deficit to 11-8.
Yet, the trio of George Arnett, Jace Copley and Bryce Stuart were on a mission and sparked a 10-0 run for a 21-8 lead before ending the first quarter with a 21-11 advantage.
Keeping their foot on the gas, that lead expanded to 29-13 and seemed to have the makings of blowout.
However, Waverly fought back, began attacking the bucket and getting to the free throw line. Not only was it converting, but it was slowing the tempo.
It pieced together a 7-0 run, but an offensive rebound and bucket from Tucker Merritt to beat the buzzer kept Valley ahead by double digits, 31-20, at halftime.
“Our shots in the first half were very rushed and it seemed like we panicked for some reason,” Waverly coach Travis Robertson said. “We’d come down, take a bad shot and that led to an easy bucket in transition for Valley. Things weren’t in our control and it snowballed early.”
Though Valley went into the break with some momentum, the game was about to be flipped upside down.
Waverly began its climb into the game as Hudson Kelly began to come alive as well.
After 3’s from Trey Robertson and Wade Futhey, Kelly connected on a pair of shots to help cut the lead to 41-38 with less than a minute left in the third.
Robertson attempted to tie the game with a 3 at the buzzer and missed, but Kelly made a hustle play for an offensive rebound and layup at the buzzer, cutting the Indians’ lead to 41-40.
“I haven’t been playing the best lately, but momentum carried us and I knew I had to make plays,” Kelly said. “Our guards did a great job of hitting me and Will on the slips and getting us in open situations. We’re tough to stop when everything is going for us.”
With all momentum on Waverly’s side, the Tigers turned up the pressure and Will Futhey began to shine.
As he began dominating the boards and getting buckets, he additionally opened up lanes for Robertson to drive through.
The duo scored 21 of Waverly’s 25 fourth quarter points, and once it took the lead at 49-47, it never looked back as it stretched that advantage to five points and further before closing out the win.
“Our schedule sets us up for games like this. Tough opponent on the road and inside of a packed gymnasium,” Travis Robertson said. “We battled late with Upper Arlington and Newark, and beat a really good team from West Virginia earlier this season. We’re battle-tested and we felt like the deeper the game got, as long as it was close, it was to our advantage. Great win by our guys.”
Robertson finished with 26 points and seven assists for Waverly, while Kelly added 10 points and five rebounds.
For Valley, Stuart finished with 22 points and six rebounds, followed by Arnett with 15 points.
Waverly returns to action on Friday at home against Wheelersburg, while Valley welcomes Northwest that same evening in SOC II action.