HANOVER – Licking Valley was forced to postpone the majority of its December games, the result of a run to the Division IV state finals in football.
The Panthers have spent the time since playing catch-up, something that was evident on Monday night against a Sheridan team leaving little doubt these days.
Senior guard Carson Conley scored a game-high 20 points for the Panthers, but the unbeaten Generals continued their torrid streak to start the season. They scored 15 of the game’s first 21 points and rode another balanced scoring attack in a 72-50 nonleague road win.
It was Valley’s season opener. First-year coach Luke Gibson, hired in July, said his team didn’t even have a scrimmage before taking on one of the best teams in Division II. The Generals still have some key pieces back from last year’s state tournament team.
The Generals (8-0) lost their top two scorers from last year’s state tournament team, including Southeast District Player of the Year Ethan Heller, but 6-5 Luken Hill leads an unselfish cast that has more than picked up the pieces.
They were in control from the outset against a Valley team clearly shaking off the rust.
“We’ve got a new system and kids coming off a really successful football season, and we’re just building the pieces,” Gibson said. “We’re building the foundation of this thing. Today was that opportunity to get tested, and it was good for them to play a team as talented as them.”
Sheridan, already with wins against John Glenn and Tri-Valley to its credit, had four players reach double figures and Nate Johnson and Shay Taylor toss in eight apiece, doing much of its damage in transition and in the paint.
A drive and score from Lance Sawyers cut an 18-point deficit to 37-26 midway through the third, only to watch the Generals respond by scoring on six of their next seven possessions to close the quarter. The result was a 49-29 lead.
Hill, a three-year starter, had two transition baskets and assisted on Ethan Malone’s transition layup during that span, which saw four players score.
“I think it’s good to play a team that’s 7-0,” Gibson said. “They’re 7-0 and you’re 0-0. They’re in rhythm and you’re still figuring things out. There couldn’t have been a better test for the first game. It’s just the Band-Aid that needs to get pulled off. You need to go out there and mix it up. You just learn from it.”
Carson Conley is fouled in the lane during the second half of Licking Valley’s 72-50 loss to visiting Sheridan on Monday night in Hanover.Buy Photo
Carson Conley is fouled in the lane during the second half of Licking Valley’s 72-50 loss to visiting Sheridan on Monday night in Hanover. (Photo: Sam Blackburn/Times Recorder)
Particularly, they learned their interior defense needs some shoring up.
In the fourth, after two Conley 3s got Valley within 50-35 with 5:40 left, Sheridan had a stretch with points on eight of 10 possessions, capped by a Johnson 3 that made it 68-43 with 2:14 left.
In that stretch, point guard Landen Russell had six points on layups as the Generals had 12 points in the paint. They were 18-of-24 from the field in the second half, with 32 of its 41 points coming in the paint. That came on the heels of shooting 50 percent overall against John Glenn.
Hill had 14 points, Russell 13, Ethan Malone 12 and Ranft 11 for Sheridan, which had 28 total field goals. That masked a 7-of-18 effort at the line, one of the only black marks on another strong all-around effort.
Six different players scored in the first half and nine in the second.
“I just like the way we are sharing the ball and run up and down the floor,” Fisher said. “It’s fun to coach and fun to watch. … I feel like the last two or three games we’ve really hit our stride basketball-wise. I like the way we’ve been able to adjust to opponents, too. Tonight was more of an up-and-down game where against John Glenn they played a little bit more of a half-court game.”
Ethan Curry added 12 points and Noah Hopkins six for Valley, which hit 12 of 19 at the line. Conley was 8-of-10.
Sheridan’s reserves (8-0) won, 56-38, as Kaelan Pullion piled up 21 points and Kyle Peters 11.
Sam Blackburn is a reporter with the Zanesville Times Recorder and Coshocton Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 740-450-6723 or on Twitter at @SamBlackburnTR.