STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – Southern Local came into Tuesday night’s district semifinal with one goal in mind: Find a way to win.
Jacob Joiner tallied 28 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists to muscle the Indians to a 52-50 win over Valley Christian.
The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to start the game and forced Southern Local into turnovers on their first four possessions.
Andre Sloan recorded the first points for the Indians on a layup with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
Emmanuel Armour and Jamynk Jackson were the offensive catalysts for Valley Christian in the first half. Armour finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds while Jackson had 11 points and seven boards.
The Eagles controlled the tempo with their athleticism and quick ball movement.
Jamynk Jackson hit a three-pointer to push the Valley Christian lead to eight with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The Eagles finished the quarter ahead 16-10.
Milan Square of Valley Christian asserted himself in the second quarter keeping possessions alive for second chance points. Square finished with nine points and five rebounds.
The Eagles soared to a 27-15 lead midway through the half.
Max Hart connected on a three-pointer to keep the game within reach for the Indians.
Jacob Joiner scored the final seven points for Southern Local. However, Valley Christian still had the lead at the half 29-22.
“We needed to settle down in the first half. We sat down and knew we didn’t play well but we were still only down by seven. We were down by 17 at the half against East Canton so we felt like the deficit wasn’t really all that much”, said Southern Local head coach Aaron Blatch.
The Indians decreased the tempo of the game and reaped the benefits. The slower pace gave them enough time to pass with accuracy to find open shooters.
Valley Christian matched their opponent shot for shot in the third quarter.
Dominic Pugliano drove the lane for a layup to cut the deficit to 40-35 heading into the final quarter of play. Pugliano finished the game with nine points and two boards.
Southern Local opened the quarter on a 5-0 run before Jamynk Jackson answered with a layup to break the tie.
Jacob Joiner exploded for the remainder of the contest, scoring 10 of his team’s 17 fourth quarter points.
“When we went into halftime we just wanted to calm down and get our confidence up because we’ve had to fight back from slow starts all season. We all came together as a team and that’s why we won,” Joiner said.
Southern Local snatched the lead for the first time when Joiner drove in for a layup to make the score 47-46 with 4:06 left in the game.
Jordan Trowers made a layup plus the foul but missed the free throw. The Indians trailed by a point with just over three minutes to go.
Koty Wetzel hit a three-pointer from the corner with 2:45 left giving the Indians back the lead, 50-48. Joiner scored again on the ensuing possession to increase the lead to four.
Jordan Trowers made another layup with less than a minute remaining to close the gap back to two points.
Valley Christian regained the basketball off a jump ball with 27 seconds left.
Koty Wetzel was fouled after an Eagles’ missed field goal. Wetzel was at the line with six seconds to go and missed a free throw.
The Eagles had one last opportunity to tie the game or win, but they did not get the shot off. Southern Local came out on top 52-50.
Indians fans erupted with joy as their team solidified another emotional comeback.
“Getting the win over East Canton was special, Blatch said. I also think you could put this game in that category as well. Some of the guys were crying on the floor after the buzzer sounded. It’s wonderful to see the amount of love and care they have for one another.”
Valley Christian head coach Dolph Carroll expressed his thoughts on his team’s season.
“We missed some opportunities down the stretch but I’m very proud of how far we went. Joiner is a fearless player and he drove in on us all game. This is a great group of kids and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to coach them.”
Aaron Blatch expressed what his thoughts are going forward as his team will battle McDonald or Sebring on Friday.
“I hope we won’t get complacent because we’ll play against a solid team either way. I think we’re going to be up to the challenge.”
Emmanuel Armour and Jamynk Jackson led the Eagles with 11 points apiece. Milan Square added 10 points in the setback.
Southern Local will now play the either McDonald or Sebring in the Division IV district championship game on Friday. Tipoff is set for 7 PM at Struthers Fieldhouse. The Indians improve to 9-16. Valley Christian finishes the season with a record of 12-12.