SMYRNA — The West Valley Middle School boys basketball team concluded the 2019-20 season on a winning note Saturday afternoon, Feb. 15, in the TMSAA State Tournament.
The Wolves routed Knox Doss Middle School from Hendersonville 52-28 in the third-place game at Stewarts Creek Middle School, culminating a big week.
WVMS becomes the second consecutive Knox County team to finish third in the state tournament. Powell Middle accomplished the feat last season, which was the first campaign where Knoxville teams participated in the state tournament.
West Valley had to answer an early wake-up call Saturday after playing a late tilt against Memphis-Ridgeway Friday night.
The Roadrunners edged West Valley 49-40 in Friday night’s semifinal at Stewarts Creek High School.
The Wolves (34-4) got 16 points from state sectional tournament Most Valuable Player Connor Ruth Friday night. Sectional all-tournament standout Sam Tummins had 13 points against Ridgeway, which captured the state championship Saturday with a victory over Murfreesboro-Oakland.
West Valley punched its ticket to the Midstate by upsetting previously undefeated Whittle Springs 53-37 in the sectional championship game on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Hardin Valley Middle School.
That victory avenged a pair of losses to the Warriors (26-1), including a 39-19 loss in the James A. Ivey Jr. Memorial Middle School Basketball Tournament championship game.
The Wolves set the tone for last week’s sectional title game early and quickly made sure that they wouldn’t have a repeat performance of the Knox County championship game.
West Valley coach Noel Landrum employed a match-up zone defense and the Warriors couldn’t find any answers. The tactics led to an 11-5 first-quarter lead for the Wolves.
From there, WVMS cruised to victory as they held the Warriors to a season-low 37 points. Whittle Springs struggled from the outset. After winning the opening tip, the Warriors abandoned their trademark run-and-gun offense for a slowdown game.
Landrum said that played right in to the Wolves’ hands.
“We didn’t want to run with them,” Landrum said.
But West Valley, which missed five early layups, but they forced turnovers and scored in transition.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Landrum, who shed a few tears of joy after the game.
Ruth scored 18 points against the Warriors. Drew Parrott added 10 and Tummins finished with eight while Dalton Siva had five.
For many of the West Valley players, including Ruth, Parrott, Tummins and Cody Clough (who scored four crucial points off the bench), this wasn’t the first win against an undefeated foe to win a championship.
Those players won the first-ever Middle-school Aged Conference football championship for a Bearden team that knocked off previously unbeaten Alcoa on the Tornadoes’ home turf.
“I think winning begets winning,” Landrum said. “Several of those players; Drew, Sam, Cody and Connor played on that football team. Cody gave us a huge lift.”
Clough, who came off the bench and hit a layup midway through the third quarter and made a layup to give the Wolves a 30-18 lead. He was fouled but missed the ensuing free throw. He would, however, make a pair of free throws later in the frame to help the Wolves maintain the upper hand in the game.