TO THE HOOP — West Valley Central School varsity basketball player Dylan Westfall (center) is pictured, putting up a shot, during an earlier game played against Springville-Griffith Institute. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
WEST VALLEY — The West Valley Central School boys varsity basketball team took on Panama, during the first round of the Section VI playoffs, on Feb. 20.
The Wildcats came out shooting and drilled 3-point shots, with Marcus Enser, Mike Grigsby and Colton Myers each knocking one down.
West Valley found itself down 29 – 24, at halftime, and, during the third quarter, was behind by 7, with 3 minutes’ remaining. Myers scored 9 of his team-high 26 points, as the Wildcats roared back and trailed by 1 point, at the end of the third.
“We battled back, by tightening up our defense and spreading out our offense, said Coach Jason Kearney. “We were able to create some good mismatches, when we went to our spread offense, and were able to drive to the bucket with Myers and pound it down low to Westfall, as well, as keeping our shooters Enser and Grigsby outside, to knock down open shots.”
With 1:21 left in the fourth quarter, West Valley took its first lead since the second, with the score at 47 – 46. Panama regained the lead and, with 24 seconds left, Kearney called a timeout, with his team behind by 50 – 47.
Panama shut down West Valley’s play to Grigsby, as Grigsby relocated; Derek Wells found his teammate for a catch and shoot and Grigsby drilled the triple, to tie the game, as time expired.
This was the second team, this season, that Grigsby had successfully hit a 3, at the buzzer, to send the game into overtime. He also accomplished this, during an earlier game against Gowanda.
West Valley never trailed, during that extra period, and, after overtime, came out victorious against Panama for the Wildcats’ first playoff victory in five years.
“It was back and forth, but we were either tied or winning [in overtime] and we made our free throws when they mattered most,” Kearney said, about the 63 – 62 win.
The Wildcats went 6 – 7, from the foul line, during the extra session.
Myers led West Valley in scoring, with 26 points, while Grigsby added 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Senior forward Westfall finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Enser finished with 9 points, which all came from behind the arc.
Panama was led by Alec Blose, who scored a game-high 35 points.
MAKE THAT PLAY — West Valley’s Derek Wells is pictured, handling the ball in a game against Springville.
“We played like we were the team to beat, tonight, and put together our best team effort, all season long,” Kearney said, about the win. “I think everyone on our team tonight had their best games and just all came together at the right time, for us. We were poised and under control.”
The Wildcats met Sherman on Feb. 22, during the next round of the tournament, but could not unseat the Class D 12th-ranked team in the state, as Sherman won 67 – 28.
“They are a very fast team and can shoot the lights out, but what we struggled with, earlier this season with them was their press,” Kearney said. “We were able to break their press fine, but we couldn’t hang onto the ball, once we started running through our offensive sets.”
Nine of the Wildcats’ players scored, during the Sherman game. Junior varsity callups Patrick Enser, Emil Erlandson, Jared Ras and Lucas Smith all saw the court.
This game marked the final game for eight West Valley Central School seniors.
The seniors led the team in rebounding, as Brandon Rockwood pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Keegan Kittle finished off his high school career, pulling down five rebounds. Cole Stanbro grabbed three rebounds and Alex Fuller grabbed two, during the loss.
Seniors Myers, Grigsby, Marcus Enser and Westfall have been playing varsity together, since their sophomore year, and laced up their sneakers for the last time in their high school career, against Sherman.
“I will truly miss this group of seniors, as they have been up on varsity for three years now, and have been a huge part of our program since I started coaching here,” Kearney said. “I brought Enser, Myers, Westfall and Grigsby up as sophomores, three years ago, which was my first year coaching the varsity boys. It will be very different not seeing them at practices, as we continue into next season. Fuller, Kittle and Stanbro have been up, practicing with us, since then, so we, as a group, have been together for a long time.”