BLUE RAPIDS — For the first time all season, the undefeated Valley Heights boys’ basketball team was tested.
But it was still able to hold off Doniphan West, 62-58, to win its fifth straight game.
Leading the entire way, Valley Heights (5-0) seemed to have the game in control, but Doniphan West was able to get within one at multiple points in the contest.
But thanks to clutch shots by Elijah Smith (11 points), Bennett Bargdill (12 points), and Derek Trimble (21 points), Valley Heights will go into the holiday break undefeated.
Smith hit a momentum-swinging 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, giving Valley Heights a 45-36 lead heading in to the fourth. The Mustangs capitalized on the momentum and was able to extend the lead to as many as 12 in the fourth quarter.
But key baskets, including a number of 3-pointers by Jeffery Watts and Luke Rush kept Doniphan West within striking distance.
Watts led Doniphan West with 23 points, while Rush added 10.
Valley Heights head coach Adam Plummer switched nearly every one of his starters on Watts during portions of the game in an attempt to slow him down.
“He doesn’t really have a weakness,” Plummer said of Watts. “The scary thing is that he is coming back next year.”
Both teams started the game by pounding the ball inside. Charles Musil was a key early, as the Valley Heights guards fed the 6-foot-4 post player. Musil scored seven of his 14 total points in the first quarter and put Doniphan West in foul trouble.
Musil’s big quarter also put Valley Heights up 19-9. Musil also added three blocks that ignited the Valley Heights student section.
But Valley Heights was never able to put Doniphan West away due to long scoring droughts. Plummer said selfish play contributed to those scoring problems, which is something that will be addressed as the team presses through its remaining games.
“We didn’t play great team offense,” Plummer said. “We tried to do too much one on one.”
He was also disappointed in the team’s free-throw shooting, citing missed free throws as another reason Valley Heights was never able to pull away from Doniphan West.
Bargsdill, a senior guard, who considers himself more of a facilitator than a scorer, finished 5 of 6 at the free-throw line in the game’s closing minutes.
Instead of deflecting the pressure to his other teammates, Bargdill assumed responsibility in the last minute.
“I’ve always been good at free throws and I told my teammates that I wanted the ball,” Bargdill said.
Next up for the Valley Heights Mustangs is a home tilt against Onaga on Jan. 7.