Late push lifts HVA past No. 4 WB

MARYVILLE — The most noticeable thing about A.J. Gray’s performance against No. 4 state-ranked William Blount was, to a casual fan, his clutch fourth-quarter shooting — five three-point baskets and 19 points overall — in helping Hardin Valley Academy rally past the Govs to win 65-61 at WBHS.

But there was a lot more this hot-handed wing did to help secure a huge District 4-4A road victory Friday night, Jan. 13.

“I’m pleased with A.J.’s defensive effort and rebounding most of all,” said HVA head coach Andrew Arendt, whose team took over first place in the district at 3-0 while improving to 17-3 overall, while the Govs fell to 18-3, 3-1. “He got some really clutch rebounds and defended extremely well.

“He shot it well — but we have a lot of players who can shoot it,” the first-year Hawks coach added. “I firmly believe that if it wasn’t A.J. who made those shots, it would have been somebody else.

“Friday it was A.J.; tomorrow it could be any number of kids.”

As a team, Hardin Valley trailed most of the game by single digits, often seeing a rally fall short of taking the lead, until midway into the final quarter.

“Most of all I’m happy with our intensity and our effort,” Arendt said. “That’s what won us the game.”

Trailing 37-30 at halftime thanks to an 8-0 Govs run in the last 90 seconds of the second quarter, the Hawks were behind 49-44 going into the fourth quarter.

Gray’s third three-point basket of the final eight minutes, followed by a 5-foot spinning shot in the paint by senior post Jack Smith gave HVA a 55-54 lead with 4:19 remaining.

Smith’s fastbreak tip-in upped that lead to 57-54 about 30 seconds later.

A three-point jumper from WBHS 6-foot-6 star Caden Windle (17 total points to lead his team) tied the game 59-59 with 2:13 to play, but Hardin Valley junior guard Nic Hodge’s drive-then-pass to Smith for a lay-up made it 61-59 Hawks at the 1:54 mark.

Tied at 61-61, HVA senior wing Hakeem Rashid hit one free throw with just 35.8 seconds left, but Hawks senior wing Amadou Seck rebounded the missed toss. Thirteen seconds later, Rashid nailed two free throws for a 64-61 Hardin Valley lead.

After William Blount missed a tying three-point attempt, Smith hit one free throw with just 3.8 seconds on the clock to seal the victory.

Smith scored 13 for Hardin Valley while Rashid ended with eight points, followed by Ben Brophy and Hunter Frey each scoring seven. Hodge had six points.

-- Robertson scored 16 for William Blount.