Noah Whitt
Brock Netter

Brock Netter

Brock is SOSA's primary writer and has worked for the Coshocton Tribune, the Kankakee Daily Journal (Ill.) and the Vinton-Jackson Courier. He's a two-time award-winning journalist, a lifelong WWE fan, a suffering Bengals fan and calls the sidelines his home.

Western ousts Valley in Athens, earns first trip to Elite 8 since 2007

The Indians will now meet with Berlin Hiland in a Division IV regional final.

Brock Netter, Staff Writer

ATHENS — When Tuesday’s final horn sounded, Western coach Doug Williams and senior Koleton Miller shared a hug that both will remember for the rest of their lives.

Western’s Chase Carter scores in the third quarter of Tuesday’s win over Valley.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

Williams and Miller’s Indians (24-2) had just polished off its first regional win in 15 years, the team had fought off a hard-nosed Valley squad and a trip to the Final 4, all of the sudden, didn’t feel so distant.

That’s all after a 63-55 victory over Valley, a game in which Western had held a lead in throughout the entire second half.

“They’re just gritty, tough kids,” Western coach Doug Williams said. “A lot of them have been around for three years and to their credit, we’ve been telling them they’re not. They just decided that they were tired of hearing that. As the head coach, I’m the tough-love guy. So for two and a half years, I’ve been telling them they’re not very tough. They’re proving me wrong.”

The win provides Western’s first trip to a regional final since 2007, a year when the Indians fell to Harvest Prep by a 76-74 final.

And, much like that ride some 15 years ago, seemingly the entirety of Latham came out to witness the program’s biggest win since.

“It’s easy to sell blue-collar and sell the underdog in Latham. Everybody in Pike County knows where Latham is and it can be down on its luck,” Williams said. “People are excited about basketball because it’s pretty much all we have. So for the community to be here on a Tuesday night, it was just awesome. To see all those people, to see them at the pep rally and how excited the kids are, it’s just awesome.”

Tale of the tape

Valley (20-5) wasted no time starting hot as buckets from Bryce Stuart, Colt Buckle and George Arnett helped it out to a quick 7-0 lead. Western answered back behind Noah Whitt, Drew Haggy and Koleton Miller on a 13-5 burst to give itself a 13-12 advantage after the first.

Both teams proceeded to trades buckets to open the second, but a pair of free throws from Haggy had Western ahead 21-18. Valley stormed back on a 6-0 run, capped by a two-handed jam from Stuart before Western’s Chase Carter hit a triple to tie the game at 24-24.

PHOTOS: Images from Western’s regional semifinal win over Valley

It was a race to break, and although Valley’s Hunter Edwards got a rebound and a put back to beat the buzzer, Western still held a 30-28 lead at halftime.

“My assistants and I argue all the time about whether we should make adjustments or not,” Williams said with a smile. “They argue that we should switch to something and I argue that we should just tough it out because we’re in better condition. So my final word to the kids at halftime was, ‘Who’s tougher? We’re up two points, so it’s basically 0-0. So are you tougher than [Valley] or not?’ Our kids just keep answering that bell.”

In the third, Western came out like a team on a mission, and so did Carter.

The senior drilled a triple to cap a 10-4 run at the 4:52 mark in the third, putting Western ahead 40-32. Just over two minutes later, he scored again to make it a 47-35 lead at the 2:09 mark — a lead that remained intact after three.

In the fourth, much of the same took place. While Valley kept attempting to mount a comeback, Western kept providing a counter-punch.

Valley managed to whittle the deficit to five at 58-53 but Western hit its free throws down the stretch, putting a marquee win on ice on the biggest stage in Southeast Ohio.

Stat book

Carter ended the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Whitt finished with 15 points and 10 boards. Haggy also chipped in with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists — proving once again, he certainly doesn’t play like any other regular freshman.

“He’s just not afraid,” Williams said of Haggy. “Drew’s played so much basketball that he’s kind of seen it all. I told the boys before we played today that they’re not new to playing on a big floor. It was cool because we are where we are, but we’ve seen a gym like this before. Drew is the same and he’s been good for us all year. He’s coming into his own now and he’s helped us get to where we’re at.”

For Valley, Arnett ended the night with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Stuart finished with 17 points and five rebounds.

What’s on tap

Western returns to action in a Division IV regional final at 7 p.m. on Friday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center. The Indians’ opponent will be Berlin Hiland, a winner over Newark Catholic in double overtime.

“These guys are just on a roll,” Williams said. “When this story is told, no matter what happens moving forward, I’ve said it several times … this is just a neat team because there’s going to be a bunch of different stories to tell.”


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