WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South fell to the Dixie Greyhounds 48-25 in the finals of South’s annual Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 28.
Dixie moved on to the finals after defeating Eaton 61-59 on Friday, Nov. 27.
Twin Valley South was originally scheduled to face National Trail in the tournament semifinals, but the Blazers dropped out due to a team-wide quarantine. The Panthers were unable to find a fourth team, automatically moving them on to the finals.
South fell behind early, down 8-1 at the end of the first quarter as Dixie’s 2-3 zone made things difficult for the Panthers all evening.
“Dixie did a nice job,” South first-year coach Ryan Innis said. “[Their] coach really does a great job with them. He’s trying to change the culture, the same thing that we’re doing here, and his kids played hard. I thought their zone gave us fits and slowed us down a lot. They outworked us in every facet of the game.”
The Panthers showed life in the second quarter as seniors Brayden Marker, Levi Gearhart, Michael Crews and Tyler Wright all got on the board during the 9-point frame, though Dixie responded with a 19-point quarter of its own to increase the lead to 27-10.
South had just nine players enter the game, so beyond the starting lineup of the four seniors and junior Lucas Sievering, the Panthers had little experience in the rest of the rotation.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Innis said. “We have guys that haven’t played a whole lot, and the chemistry is not there yet.”
Dixie opened the third quarter on a nine-point run to make it 36-10, and the Panthers had just two points in the quarter before Marker added a three-pointer as time expired, making it 39-15.
Though the game was well in hand for the Greyounds, South continued to fight, adding 10 points in the fourth quarter to make the final 48-25.
Innis said he talks to his team about how they respond to adversity, and how that response will dictate everything.
“It was a shame that we waited until the fourth quarter to actually turn the heat up and start playing, and that’s something we’ve got to build on,” he said. “I am super proud of that, but you’re not going to win a lot of games with that type of effort, and we’ve got to be able to turn that on from the get-go.”
It wasn’t the start the Panthers wanted to the season, but Innis said it gives them plenty to work on moving forward.
“We talk about the controllables, everything that we can control: the 50/50 battles, the offensive rebounds, the turnovers,” Innis said. “We shot very poorly tonight, and that’s not going to win you a whole lot of games, so that’s definitely something we’ve got to improve on.”
Coaching the first game for Twin Valley South without Tony Augspurger since 1986, Innis said there were a lot of unknowns going into Saturday’s game.
“It’s always the unknowns,” he said. “You’re always scared of the unknowns and you’re relying on 14 to 18-year-old kids to come out and you don’t have any idea how they’re going to respond. You hope you put the kids in the right places and do the right things and hope for the best.”
Marker would lead the Panthers with 8 points, following by Wright with 5 points and Gearhart with 3 points. Crews and junior Logan Clark added 2 points, and Sievering and freshman Jace Thuma scored 1 point.
Freshman Cole Bishop also added a three-pointer.
With wins over Eaton and Twin Valley South, this is the first set of back-to-back wins for the Dixie Greyhounds since two consecutive wins to close out the 2017-18 regular season against Tri-County North and Waynesville on Feb. 10, 2018, and Feb. 16, 2018, respectively.
Twin Valley South will return to the court this Friday as they travel to face Arcanum.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles