AUGUSTA — Jordan Gillespie, a Valley High School senior, considers himself a decent free throw shooter. On Wednesday morning at the Augusta Civic Center, Gillespie wasn’t at his best, but he was still pretty good, making nine of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter to help No. 4 Valley take a 50-40 win over No. 1 Forest Hills in the Western Class D semifinals.
Valley, now 16-4, will play No. 2 Hyde (18-2) in the regional final on Saturday. Forest Hills, the defending Class D state champion, ends the season at 17-3.
Forest Hills beat Valley twice in the regular season, and had won its last four games against its rival from Bingam.
“It’s tough to keep beating the same team, over and over. They played well, and they know us well,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said.
“Our boys were really confident this time,” Valley coach Luke Hartwell said. “Our boys had to get over that hump that first half. I told the boys, as long as we start hitting some shots, we’re going to be OK.”
The game was tied, 30-30, early in the fourth quarter, when Valley took control with back-to-back 3-pointers by Cody Laweryson and Dylan Belanger.
“Anthony (Amero) is one of the best coaches in the state, in my opinion. They’ve just got so much experience,” Hartwell said. “Cody and Dylan hit those two consective threes, that gave our team confidence, big-time.”
From there, all of Valley’s offense came at the foul line, where Gillespie made nine of the Cavs’ 14 fourth quarter free throws. With each foul shot, Gillespie thought the same thing.
“I’ve got to make these and put this game away. Over and over. Got to make âem,” Gillespie, who scored a game-high 14 points, said.
“We take 25 (free throws) at the end of every practice, and I make sure, this time of season, we get a lot of shots up,” Hartwell said. “The reality is, in Augusta, it comes down to limiting your turnovers, making your easy shots, and making your free throws. And that’s what it came down to tonight.”
The Cavs went 21-30 at the line, while Forest Hills was just 6-17, including 0-4 in the fourth quarter.
“We haven’t been shooting the ball well the last couple of weeks, and we didn’t hit at the line. You can’t win big games when you don’t hit foul shots,” Amero said. “They took away the inside very well, and we couldn’t hit outside shots today. We struggled from the perimeter.”
Valley opened the game strong at both ends of the court, and led 10-2 midway through the first quarter. Throughout the game, Teagan Staples, Collin Miller and Cody Beane did a nice job defending the Tigers’ big men, Ryan Petrin and Tanner Daigle. The 6-foot-3 duo combined to score just six points.
“The past two games (against Forest Hills), we haven’t come out strong, but today we came out strong and eventually pulled away,” Gillespie said.
The Tigers heated up at the end of the second quarter and closed the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 21-20 lead at the break. The teams traded the lead in the third quarter, and Matt Turner’s 3-pointer with 1:07 left in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 30-28 lead going into the fourth.
Turner, who sat much of the second quarter with three fouls, led the Tigers with 11 points. Belanger scored 10 for Valley.