AUGUSTA — This is what Carrington Miller and Josh West have been waiting for, or perhaps, there’s a better way to put it. Miller and West have been building up to this.
Miller and West were just children when they saw the great Valley High School boys basketball teams of a decade ago roll into the Augusta Civic Center and play as if they owned the place. Now seniors for the Cavaliers, Miller and West are adding to the Valley tradition at the Augusta Civic Center. Their play in Western Class D playoff wins over Greenville and Hyde are the biggest reason the Cavaliers will play in the regional championship game today against rival Forest Hills.
It’s the first trip to the regional final in five years for the Cavaliers. Miller and West know the tradition that hangs over them, and they’re glad to add to it.
“This is our home away from home. Valley’s been pretty synonymous with the Civic Center and coming down here and winning games,” West said. “We’re glad we can continue the tradition of winning games.”
Valley scored 117 points combined in a quarterfinal win over Greenville (62-56) and Wednesday’s semifinal win over Hyde (55-53). Miller and West scored 96 of those points, and the victory over Hyde was their best effort of the season.
Miller scored 26 points against the Phoenix, including the two free throws with three seconds left in the game that put the Cavs over the top
“We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws in practice lately, so I was confident,” Miller said.
West scored 20 points, including a solo 9-0 run to end the second quarter, cutting an 11-point Hyde lead to a completely unfearsome two points at halftime.
Valley coach Wade Morrill has watched and groomed the development of Miller and West for four years. He had no doubt the pair would play well in the season’s biggest moments.
“They’ve had a season of stepping up,” Morrill said. “You could see it in Josh, just the way he played. He was a man possessed. His defense. He was diving everywhere, getting offensive putbacks. Carrington, his putback, what an athletic play.”
Morrill referred to a tip-in by Miller late in the third quarter. Miller sprung from the middle of the key on the play, gently tapping in a missed shot to give the Cavs a 38-35 lead.
Miller is a 6-foot-2 guard and West is a 6-foot forward. Their skills complement each other perfectly. Playing together since fourth grade, it shows.
“You notice who is usually at the end of Carrington’s passes? They’ve played a lot of basketball together,” Morrill said.
Miller is primarily known as a scorer, and that’s understandable. He averaged 21 points per game in the regular season and became the first Valley player in six years to score 1,000 career points. But Miller is also one of the best passers in Class D. He’s a slasher with instincts to find the basket, but when opponents double or triple team him, Miller has a knack for finding the open teammate for an easy layup.
That’s exactly what happened with 10 seconds left in the Hyde game. With Valley trailing 53-51, Miller drove the lane. Hyde players converged on him, and Miller made a perfect soft pass to Dylan Belanger, who made the game-tying layup.
“I’m a pass first guy. I love to pass. Getting a nice assist feels just as good as hitting a 3-pointer,” Miller said. “I really look to attack more. I used to be a shot first guy, but I’m looking to set up my teammates and get them involved.”
West is the guy who always makes something happen in the low post. He has you reaching for your game program, double-checking to see if he’s really only 6-feet tall.
“Josh is a more north-south, go through you and knock down the wall guy. A big, strong kid. He finishes up around the basket. He plays defense. He’s probably one of the best defenders in Class D,” Morrill said, “Carrington has the length, the size, the ball-handling, the passing. Carrington’s more of a finesse guy. We’re working at our best when Carrington is balancing his scoring with his passing game.”
Before the season, the Cavaliers made playing in the regional championship game a goal. Playing on the Augusta Civic Center court is a privilege earned playing hours and hours on courts in other places, in other gyms and in schoolyards.
“Those boys, in the last three years, have played 100-something games. They’ve never missed a summer game,” Morrill said. “Those two guys, every night, they’re working hard. They’re doing everything they could do to get to this game this year.
“It took us five years to get back here. This is where we want to be.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242