LOWELLVILLE — The Lowellville Rockets advanced to the district semifinals after defeating Valley Christian 54-29 in a Division IV sectional final at home on Friday.
It was a close game, early on, as the Rockets took a 18-12 lead to the second quarter.
However, Lowellville put the clamps down on defense, and held Valley to four points in the second. Jon’trell Mixon had 10 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, and Joey Battista scored the other 6, and the Rockets built a 27-16 advantage at halftime.
“I’ve got good kids,” Valley Christian coach Dolph Carroll said. “They play hard. Even at halftime it was still close. We missed way too many layups.
“I didn’t know, at the beginning of the season, that we’d be playing for a sectional championship. Tonight just wasn’t a good game for us.”
It was a good game for Lowellville, as seven players scored in the first half. Vinny Ballone had six points before exploding in the third quarter. He began the second half with a jumper. He then took it to the hoop, and switched hands at the rim. He swished one from downtown, and held three fingers up to the crowd. Ballone finally scored on a hop-step in the lane, as Lowellville took a 42-20 lead to the fourth.
“Tonight’s game was really inspiring,” said Ballone, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “A couple of our teammates had a loved one pass away. We wanted to play hard, and get a win for them.
“Valley Christian is a good team. They came out tough. We played some really hard defense.”
Anthony Lucente (11 points) made a nice spin-move in the post. He nailed a 3-pointer, from the corner, after Justin Beeson got a shooter’s roll from the other side.
“I’m proud of our team,” Beeson said. “We started off a little slow in the first half. But, we were able to play together, and win it.
“Being a senior, I’m often yelling on the court. I try to let everyone know where to be. We did a lot of talking on defense, and that helped us.”
Brady Bunofsky saved the ball from going out of bounds by flipping it back to Kyle Miller, who finished, as Lowellville moved on.
“We wanted to press Valley Christian,” Lowellville coach Matt Olson said.
“They have some bigs, and they maybe don’t handle it as well as some other teams. But, they did a great job. They broke it. They were getting some open looks. So, we switched it up. We went to more of a man-press, and we were able to keep them in front of us.”
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