The Conneaut Valley boys basketball team made a number of baskets during its 71-50 victory over Jamestown at the Jared Snyder Memorial Tournament at Commodore Perry on Thursday. But not a single hoop was more uplifting than the last one.
The Valley crowd roared as senior player/manager Raymond Chason scored the first point of his career with 12 seconds left in the game. Chason, who according to Valley head coach Bob Leupold has an intellectual disability, doesn’t get much playing time, but he took advantage of his chance on Thursday.
“He’s been with me for three years and that’s his first varsity point he’s ever scored,” Leupold said. “He’s a great kid. I think it’s special that all the kids root for him and support him.”
Valley senior Nolan Varee, whose triple-double included 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, convinced Leupold to let him remain in the game in order provide a perfect pass for Chason in the waning moments. Following a pass from Varee, Chason was fouled and made the second of two free throws for the Indians’ 71st and final point.
Even though the game was in hand at 70-47, Valley’s biggest cheer of the game followed Chason’s free throw. Rooting on Chason has brought the Indians together, Leupold said.
“It just shows the class of our team,” he said. “They love him and they want to see him score. I think that’s great.”
Varee, who added five steals, was one of the many Conneaut Valley stars during the lopsided win. Six-foot-eight senior Todd Lash tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds, and junior Kevin Varee poured in 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Valley (4-2) scored the first eight points of the game and led 29-13 at one point during the first half. But that advantage was trimmed to nine at 33-24 by halftime.
Ronnie Artman, who had 16 points for the Muskies (0-7), cut the deficit to 33-26 early in the third quarter, but Jamestown wouldn’t creep any closer.
A 12-2 run pushed Valley ahead 45-28. Then, in front 52-36 after three quarters, the Indians started the final eight minutes on a 16-3 surge that pushed their lead to 68-39 with two minutes remaining.
The Indians scored 58 points during the final three quarters behind Varee, who continued to pile up the assists more and more as the game went on.
“Nolan has great court vision,” Lash said. “If you’re open, he’ll get it to you. It’s just easy, it seems like. Nolan’s a great guard, probably one of the best in the region.”
Leupold said that Varee can score when he wants, but is also constantly looking for ways to set up his teammates.
“He dictates the flow of the game,” Leupold said. “He keeps everybody under control and everybody’s in the right spot. He’s a good floor general.”
Jamestown wasn’t able to use its pressure defense at many points in the game due to the 20 turnovers Valley forced. Most of those turnovers led to easy baskets for the Indians.
“Our struggle has been that we’re just not consistent,” Jamestown head coach Tyler Babcock said. “We have good nights shooting and then bad nights on defense. Seventy is not a number we usually give up on defense. Anytime we get into a game like that, we’re not going to stand a chance to go up and down the court against these teams.”
As the game progressed, Valley became more and more confident as a unit. Varee said that the team’s chemistry continues to build after each and every game.
“It’s the chemistry that we have there,” he said. “Even though we’re all new together, we’ve all played together on the street and at the park. We all know each other and how we all play.”
Senior Derek Mausser, Jamestown’s only returning starter from last year, totaled a game-high 20 points. He nailed four 3s and added five rebounds. Alex Boylan also had eight points and nine rebounds for the Muskies.
Valley will now face Calvary Baptist Christian Academy today at 8 p.m. in the championship game. The Thunder topped the Panthers 56-44 behind 21 points and 10 assists by Josiah Hoefler on Thursday.
Commodore Perry and Jamestown play in the 6:30 p.m. consolation game.