TAKE IT AWAY — Wildcat Derek Wells takes the ball from a Panther, during a game against Gowanda. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
WEST VALLEY — West Valley boys varsity basketball coach Jason Kearney has been looking for his senior captain, Derek Wells, to be more aggressive, offensively. Wells, a two-year starter at guard, said he has been hesitant creating offense for himself, and has been more comfortable finding an open teammate.
“I’ve been talking to Derek about being more aggressive,” Kearney said. “He’s been passing up a lot of opportunities, lately. If we want to be more successful, as a team, and win some more games, he has to look to score more.”
GETTING SOME AIR — West Valley’s Collin Proctor is shown getting a shot in, against Hindsale, during the Franklinville tournament. Photo by Erin Parish.
Wells answered that call when he scored 7 points in the first quarter and helped West Valley jump out to a 33-11 halftime lead against Hinsdale, in the consolation game of the Franklinville Tournament on Dec. 21. West Valley used that first half run from Wells and company to defeat Hinsdale 47-26, for the team’s second win of the season.
“We pressured them a lot on defense, to make their guards make decisions,” said Kearney. “One of their kids was out, so, for once, we were actually trying to take advantage of having a deeper bench. Everyone pretty much played equal time. Our bench guys and our starters all contributed. We just seemed to get into a comfort zone, where we had some confidence in our shots and made some really nice passes, as well.”
GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOT — Derek Wells of West Valley lays one up, during the game against Hindsdale. Photo by Erin Parish.
West Valley was led by Emil Erlanderson, who scored a game-high 13 points and took home All-Tournament team honors, in the process. Erlanderson has had the hot hand of late, scoring double digits in West Valley’s last two games.
“He’s starting to get into a comfort zone,” said Kearney, about Erlanderson. “He’s starting to realize what he can and can’t do. He’s making adjustments, on the fly, and he’s going up a lot stronger. The main thing is his aggressiveness, right now. He understands when to shoot from the outside and when to drive. His offensive rebounding lately has been a huge asset.”
Erlanderson also contributed five rebounds, four assists and four steals to his stat line. Patrick Enser scored 8 points for the Wildcats, while Collin Proctor led the team with 11 rebounds, in the win. West Valley had eight players in the scorebook for the first time, all season. Kearney said that he was happy to get his bench actively involved and particularly impressed by the performances from Jacob Ploetz and Jesse Nelson.
“Ploetz did very well. He saw the floor well and had some assists,” noted Kearney. “He had a lot more confidence in his shot – he wasn’t just turning and shooting. Nelson is slowly getting more minutes, every game, and it’s mainly for defense and rebounding. He’s slowly getting more comfortable offensively, as well.”
West Valley opened the tournament with a 57-43 loss to Ellicottville. Ellicottville took control of the game, outscoring West Valley 22-7, in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t even the whole second quarter; it was probably the last minute and half or two minutes of the quarter,” said Kearney. “We had a lot of turnovers, over that stretch. We thought, man-for-man, we could spread them out and create mismatches; we were able to do that, but that second quarter just killed us.”
West Valley was paced by a balanced offensive attack. Wells and Enser had 9 points apiece and Jared Ras had 10 points. Erlanderson led the team with 11 points and eight rebounds. Kearney added that he was happy about his team’s ability to share the ball.
“We shared the ball extremely well,” he said. “We were very unselfish and weren’t taking forced shots. That’s something that I’ve been trying to stress; instead of driving in, out of control, stop and pull up for that short jump shot. When you see someone driving in, cut from that opposite side and look for a pass, and we were doing that very well.”
On Dec. 10, West Valley fell to Clymer 47-26. The game was the teams’ second meeting of the season.
In the first matchup, West Valley was routed 68-26, in the first week of December. The second time around, West Valley held the Pirates under 50 points and had a much better showing, according to Kearney.
“We played a lot tougher. We stressed that,” added Kearney. “I thought when we went down there, we were kind of soft. Our defense was great, in the second meeting. We forced them into bad shots; we forced them into tough shots and didn’t back down. Our biggest problem was, we just couldn’t score.”
Leading West Valley in scoring was Enser and Erlanderson, with 9 and 8 points, respectively.
West Valley will next travel to Springville for the Emerling Ford Holiday Tournament, over winter break. During that tournament, West Valley will play Class A schools Springville and Riverside, along with Gowanda, a B School. West Valley is the smallest public school in all of Section VI.
“This tournament is not easy for us,” said Kearney. “For us being the smallest public school in Section VI, it’s a tall order. Our kids are always ready for it. It’s a good matchup for us, heading into league play. Riverside, Gowanda and Springville are all very athletic and very quick teams. Our boys have to get use to that.”
West Valley’s boys played Springville on Dec. 27. Tip-off was at 6 p.m.