COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – The Spring Valley Vikings narrowly escaped a late comeback attempt from Richland Northeast Wednesday during their 50-46 victory over the Cavaliers.
The Vikings started the game out hot. They played aggressive defense and fast offense to jump out to a 20-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We tried to come out with some energy. We had a tough, hard game against Ridgeview last night. It was emotional, I know we were kind of drained,” Spring Valley head coach Cypheus Bunton said. “I challenged them to come out and bring energy.”
The second quarter started similarly to the first. Spring Valley dominated on both ends of the floor and appeared to run away with the game.
As the quarter progressed, Richland Northeast started to settle in. They cranked up their own defensive aggression and started to close the gap. However, the slow start to the quarter put the Cavaliers further behind than they could make up.
“They’re a good team, and they’re at home, so we expect them to make runs,” Bunton said. “We’re starting to grow and get better at handling adversity. When they went on their run we didn’t panic.”
Two Vikings players scored double figures in the first half. Guard Justin Skelton led all scorers with 12 points and his teammate, forward Caleb Temoney, added 10 points.
By halftime, the Vikings extended their lead and went to the locker room up 31-17. The second half was a completely different game.
The Cavaliers played their best defense in the third quarter, holding Spring Valley to seven points. Richland Northeast closed the lead to ten before the final quarter of play and seemed to have momentum.
“They switched it up in the second half, threw a little 1-3-1, so we had to make the adjustments a little bit. They sped us up,” Spring Valley point guard CJ Rich said.
As the final quarter progressed, the Vikings’ lead started to dwindle away. One minute in it was down to single digits. Then after Spring Valley built its lead again, the Cavaliers cut it to eight with just under four minutes to go.
By this point, Richland Northeast began to play a full-court press. This led to a few costly Vikings’ turnovers and quick Cavaliers’ points. With one minute left, the lead was down to five.
With the final seconds of the game ticking away, Richland Northeast forced a live ball turnover in the backcourt, quickly picked it up and after a few tries, cut the Vikings’ lead to a single possession.
Spring Valley almost gave the game away after committing another turnover, leading to a wide-open Cavalier three-point attempt that would’ve tied the game had it gone it. However, it did not.
The ball ended up in the hands of Rich who got fouled. Rich went to the line and hit one of two free throws, but the one make was enough to push the lead to two possessions.
“It felt good. This is what I do. I do this everyday,” Rich said. “I saw it go in before.”
In the end, time ran out on the Cavaliers’ comeback attempt. They got one final shot off, but it wouldn’t have mattered even if it did go in.
Skelton finished the game with 15 points. Rich had five points and ran the point for the Vikings for almost the entire game. Three Cavaliers finished in double-figures. Guard Marques Smith Jr. led the way for them with 14 points.
Spring Valley improved to 4-2 on the season, and Richland Northeast dropped to 4-3. Spring Valley will be back on the court Friday to play Westwood. The Cavaliers have Friday off and will next play Tuesday against Lakewood.
Before their match-up with Westwood, Bunton said he wants to see the team focus on the fundamentals.
“It’s going to be tough. I know they’re going to be gunning for us because we beat them at our place,” Bunton said. “We just got to focus on doing the little things.”