Western movie icon John Wayne had his share of scuffles as a lawman trying to keep order in the wild, wild West.
Monday night in the Hidden Valley gym Wayne would have felt right at home as Hidden Valley rallied to defeat Christiansburg 58-55 in the opening round of the River Ridge District tournament.
The Titans advanced to Wednesday night’s semifinal against River Ridge regular-season champion Salem and locked up a regional berth next week. Christiansburg, a Group AA state champion last year, saw its season end with the loss.
In a game that saw physical play from the opening tip, 49 fouls, 53 free throws, two technicals, a chipped tooth, elbows galore, and a player needing to change jerseys because of blood, this one went to the wire with the gloves dropped.
Looking for a sharpshooter to floor the New River cowboys, Hidden Valley’s J.J. DeVaughn came up with the bullseye for the Titans. With the game tied at 55, DeVaughn found nothing but net on a jumper from behind the arc with :01.2 left.
Christiansburg, needing to go the length of the court after a timeout, could only wrangle together two passes before the final buzzer, as the Titan student section mobbed the court.
Things had looked bad for Hidden Valley in the early going. Christiansburg’s zone trap forced several Titan turnovers, allowing the Blue Demons to bolt to a 18-5 lead after one quarter. The lead increased to 17 one-and-a-half minute into the second before the Titans fought back to go to the locker room trailing 30-20.
“This is the way we’ve played all year long,” Hdden Valley head coach Troy Wells noted of the big first-half deficit. “It easily could have been worse. There’s no excuse for lack of effort.”
Wells shook the trees during halftime, and his Titans responded.
Hidden Valley kept chipping away in the third before sophomore Camden Sine’s steal and layup at the buzzer put the Titans up 40-39 heading to the final eight minutes.
Hidden Valley pushed its lead to 53-48 on a Hayes Nelson layup, but Christiansburg’s Tanner Cayton responded with four straight free throws to cut the margin to one.
The Blue Demons knotted the game at 53 when Matt Herndon hit one-of-two from the charity stripe. DeVaughn put the Titans back up by two on a driving layup, with Cayton hitting a pair of free throws with :21 left to tie things at 55.
That set the stage for DeVaughn’s heroics from the left side.
“Dylan was going to take the last shot but he was tripled-teamed,” DeVaughn said in the Titan locker room. “He passed it to me and it felt good when it left my hands. It’s definitely the biggest shot I’ve ever hit.”
Christiansburg head coach Shawn Good talked to the media before addressing his team. “We started out well, then we made a lot of silly mistakes. We couldn’t hold a lead and we hurt ourselves with bad shots and turnovers. I’ll tell them what we did do and what we didn’t do. Give Hidden Valley credit; they made the shots in the end.”
Hodson finished with a game-high 23 points for Hidden Valley with DeVaughn adding 11. It was the third time the Titans have knocked off the Blue Demons this season; by 2, 1 and now 3 points.
Christiansburg was led by Cayton’s 22 points, with Joey Augustin chipping in eight.
by Bill Turner