RICHFIELD — Midway through the fourth quarter of its opening-round 1A boys basketball playoff game, the situation was obvious for Region 15 champ Valley: Make plays or go home.
Manila, fresh off winning a play-in game just 17 hours earlier, didn't play like it was tired or exhausted, and the Mustangs gave Valley everything it could handle for a good portion of the second half.
In the final analysis, however, the Valley Buffaloes responded as you would've expected them to — they took care of business.
Valley, with senior guard Matt Hoyt leading the way, drained 10-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter and made enough plays at both ends of the court to avoid an upset and win, 51-39, on Wednesday.
Considering nobody on Valley's team besides Hoyt had played in the 1A tournament before Wednesday, the Buffaloes were happy in many ways to just get their feet wet and move on.
"We're glad to get past this stage, get some of the jitters out and get used to this gym," said Valley coach Dustin Shakespear. "We're pretty good shooters, but we didn't shoot worth a lick tonight. We missed all but two threes, and so gratefully at the end we were able to shut (them) off and get the ball inside and get to the hole and make our free throws.
"We played," added Shakespear, "what we consider Valley basketball at the end of the game."
Valley will face Whitehorse in the quarterfinals Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
For a while Wednesday, it looked like Valley wouldn't run into any trouble, as the Buffaloes led 18-10 at halftime despite not playing very well offensively.
To Manila's credit, however, the Mustangs got going in the second half, and they made life awfully difficult for Valley — until the very end.
"The third quarter, we got outworked," said Shakespear. "Manila's a hard-working team, and we knew that coming into the game . . . and then in the third quarter we came out flat."
Hoyt led Valley with 16 points, four assists and three steals, while Clay Williams, Tyler Spencer and Ryan Reese each added nine points. Meanwhile, junior Luke Slagowski paced Manila offensively with 10 points.
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