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Southern Local smokes Valley Christian

SALINEVILLE — Even as the Southern boys basketball team stumbled a bit down the homestretch of the regular season, the Indians always made sure to keep their eye on the bigger picture.

“The way our schedule broke down towards the end of the year, we were playing teams to prepare us for the tournament,” Southern coach Gerard Grimm said. “Even in our losses down the stretch, a lot of those were against teams that are going to be playing into March. For us, we viewed everything leading up to this moment as preparation.”

The second-seeded Indians got their Division IV tournament run off to a fast start Friday by landing a knockout punch in the first quarter and rolling past 10th-seeded Valley Christian 59-40 in a sectional final at Southern Local High School.

Southern (17-6) ties a school record for wins in a season and earns a trip to Struthers Fieldhouse to take on third-seeded Sebring in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Valley Christian finishes at 6-16.

“The record was a team goal of ours before the season even started,” Southern senior Cam Grodhaus said. “To look back and see where we’re at now is an incredible feeling.”

“It feels great to leave this gym with a victory, now we have to go to Struthers and keep working,” Southern senior forward Tanner Patterson said.

The Indians got key contributions from each of their starters on Friday.

Grodhaus led the way with 18 points, while junior guard Brock Smalley had 16 points, six rebounds and three assists. Patterson logged 14 points down low. Junior Bradly Sloan grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Senior Jayce Sloan did a little bit of everything with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.

“We really wanted to send this group of seniors out with a win in their last time on this floor,” Grimm said. “They’ve been the backbone of our program since I’ve came here and we’ve had multiple times to have moments like this, but we’ve come up just short. To see them lead us tonight was a great feeling.”

The Indians, in particular their defense, buried Valley Christian with a 19-3 first quarter. Patterson got his team fired up with eight first quarter points, including a pair of “and-1’s.” The Southern defense completely closed off the paint, forcing the Eagles to settle for a bevy of outside jumpers.

Smalley helped the Indians keep their foot on the gas by canning a pair of threes early in the second quarter as the lead grew to 27-7.

“They were pressuring us and we were getting right through it and getting to the hoop,” Patterson said. “I think our matchup zone was working really well on the other side. “We tried to make them shoot us out of it and they couldn’t do it tonight.”

“Our gym is a hard floor to shoot on and we didn’t think they’d be able to shoot consistently if we forced them to settle from the outside,” Grodhaus said.

Valley was led by the combo of Lohron Brown and Sekou Stanley, who each scored 10 points. The Eagles were never able to establish much in the half-court and got no closer than 14 points in the second half.

“We just didn’t show up in the first quarter,” Valley Christian coach Dolph Carroll said. “We were so nervous, we didn’t know what to do. For us to be here was pretty unexpected. We played a great game down at Wellsville Tuesday, we were just tight tonight. Give credit to Southern, they did a great job beating us off the dribble and made great cuts to the basket. They’re a disciplined, well-coached team.”

Southern now turns its sights to Sebring (15-8), which knocked off Lisbon 57-44 Friday in a game what was close heading to the fourth quarter.

The Indians should be very familiar with Struthers Fieldhouse as they closed out the regular season there on February 18 with a loss to Struthers.

“I’m glad we were able to get a feel for the court,” Grodhaus said. “I think we’re going to go up there and make some noise.”

Game notes

¯ The Indians celebrated Friday’s win by cutting down the nets.

¯ The other Southern boys team to reach 17 wins was the 2011 squad, which lost to Valley Christian (known at the time as Youngstown Christian) in a sectional final.

¯ Southern and Valley Christian will be seeing a lot more of each other in the future. The Eagles are slated to join the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference next season in every sport except for football, which will not join until 2021.

“We’re really excited about that, it’s going to be a great fit for us,” said Carroll, who is also the school’s athletic director. “Everybody is going to be able to compete at all levels and in all sports, which will be phenomenal. We haven’t had that in a long, long time.”

VALLEY CHRISTIAN: 3-10-10-17–40

SOUTHERN LOCAL: 19-13-11-16–59

VALLEY CHRISTIAN SCORING: Lohron Brown 5-0-10, Tyrone Lindsey 2-1-5, Jaloni Harris 0-8-8, Scott Hornbuckle 0-0-0, Sekou Stanley 4-1-10, Mark Revere 3-0-7, Andre Jones 0-0-0, Zavion Howard 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 14, 10-15: 40.

SOUTHERN LOCAL SCORING: Brock Smalley 7-0-16, Cam Grodhaus 7-4-18, Bradly Sloan 3-1-7, Jayce Sloan 2-0-4, Tanner Patterson 6-2-14, Josh Pratt 0-0-0, Sam May 0-0-0, James Burris 0-0-0, Devin Lopez 0-0-0, Mark Soukup 0-0-0, Michai Mason 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 25, 7-8: 59.

Three-point goals: Valley Christian 2 (Stanley, Revere), Southern Local 2 (Smalley 2).

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