WEST ALEXANDRIA — National Trail’s varsity boys’ basketball team opened the season with a pair of wins and a championship in the Twin Valley South Tip-Off Tournament. The sixth annual tournament opened the season for the Blazers, Twin Valley South, Eaton and Dixie.
National Trail faced Twin Valley South in the finals on Saturday, Dec. 2. The Blazers came away with a hard-fought 55-48 win to claim the title.
The win certainly was not an easy one as the Panthers fought back several times and kept the game close throughout. Their final push came in the fourth quarter when TVS opened with the 9-2 run to trim a 9-point deficit to two points, 42-40. After a timeout to break the momentum, the Blazers went on a 9-2 run of their own to rebuild a double-digit lead and put the game out of reach.
“We knew South would make things difficult for us on the offensive end — they always do,” National Trail Coach Mike Harrrison said. “Easy shots were difficult to come by, but in the end we were able to get enough tough shots inside to fall.
“We shot 56 percent from the floor including 45 percent from 3-point range, and had 20 assists while only turning it over only 10 times.
“Our defensive effort was outstanding. (Travis) Lovely is a tireless competitor inside, but I was proud of how we competed ourselves down in there to make things difficult for him. Dalton Mason did a great job on the boards for us again tonight,” Harrison said.
“Overall, I felt we needed to match their effort level because South’s is always very high, and I thought we did that. We needed to continue to play unselfish team basketball and we did that again. Just really happy for the boys and proud of their effort on the weekend.”
“Couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. We played very unselfishly, were strong with the ball, and balanced on the offensive end.”
Twin Valley South Coach Tony Augspurger praised the Blazers’ effort, but also noted his team struggled to finish around the basket.
“National Trail played really well. I thought they defended well, like Mike’s teams always do and they had a lot of patience on offense,” he said. “They have a skilled group of young players. This is the third time in the past two years that they have beaten us and they have done a better job of just finishing the game and making plays down the stretch in every one of those games. I thought we battled, but ultimately, we have to do a better job of putting the ball in the hole. We missed 26 shots inside of three feet from the basket — those are shots we are trying to get, but we just have to finish better and stronger. I’ve contacted Guinness, as I believe this might be a world record.”
Tournament MVP Dalton Mason led the Blazers with 18 points and rebounds. Travis Hunt added 16, while Michael Eyler had 12 points and Zach Woodall chipped in 11.
Willie Bowman led South with 20 points. Travis Lovely tossed in eight and Nathan Osborn added seven.
Both National Trail and Twin Valley South reached the finals with double-digits wins on Friday night. The Blazers advanced with a 77-53 win over Dixie. Statistics for National Trail include: Cameron Harrison 23 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals; Dalton Mason 18 points and 10 rebounds; Travis Hunt 15 points, 7 assists and 4 steals; and Zach Woodall 12 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Twin Valley South reached the final after a 55-42 win over Eaton. Lovely led the Panthers with 23 points, followed by Willie Bowman with 14.
“We were in early foul trouble and had a really tough time getting anything going offensively,” Eaton coach Alex Prater said. “We uncharacteristically struggled at the free throw line and shot just 9-22. We allowed too many second chance points.
“Overall, we played hard, but did not execute well enough to be in position to be successful.”
In the consolation game on Saturday, Eaton defeated Dixie, 59-44. The Eagles slowly built a first quarter lead as the period ended, 15-9. Eaton continued to build momentum and stretched the lead to nine points by halftime, 27-18.
“We were able to get our offense going as Owen Baumann had a good first half, contributing 9 points.” Prater said. Grant Sullender added 6 points in the first half.
A 7-0 run in the third period pushed the Eagles lead to double-digits forcing Dixie to call a timeout with 2:39 to go. Eaton continued to build the advantage after to the break and led by 14 at the end of the period, 45-31. They maintained the lead in the final period and came away with a 59-44 win.
In the second half, Eaton was led by Sullender and James Howard, both contributing 10 points.
“Defensively, we were led by Aaron Tolliver and Hunter Frost who had outstanding efforts on that end of the floor.
“It was good to see our guys respond after not playing well the night before and have a good performance. Our goal is to continue to get better each and everyday and be playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Sullender led the Eagles with 16 points, followed by Howard with 12.
The All-tourney team included Grant Sullender, Eaton; Willie Bowman, TVS; Travis Lovely, TVS; Cameron Harrison, NT; Travis Hunt, NT; and MVP Dalton Mason, NT.
Eaton (1-1) was scheduled to be back in action on Tuesday, Dec. 5 with a trip to Preble Shawnee. The Eagles will also play Friday, Dec. 8, when they visit Bellbrook.
National Trail (2-0) will host Arcanum on Dec. 8 to begin Cross County Conference play and will travel to Preble Shawnee on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Twin Valley South (1-1) was scheduled to host Valley View on Dec. 5 and play at rival Tri-County North on Dec. 8.