AUGUSTA — Luke Hartwell had three keys for his Valley Cavaliers going into Wednesday’s Western D semifinal with Hyde — win the rebounding battle, make free throws and limit turnovers.

After a spotty first half, Valley seemed to at least have a handle on all three factors by the end of the third quarter.

There was one thing the Cavaliers couldn’t control, no matter what they did — Hyde guard Antoine Montgomery.

Montgomery sparked a 9-0 Hyde run in the fourth quarter in a dynamic all-around performance to lead the third-seeded Phoenix to a 61-47 win over No. 2 Valley at the Augusta Civic Center.

Montgomery, a junior guard, finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals to send Hyde (16-4) back to the regional final for the second year in a row and avenge a 50-49 loss to Valley in last year’s final.

The Phoenix will face top-seeded and unbeaten Forest Hills at 11:45 a.m. Saturday.

Trailing by nine at halftime, Valley (15-5) outscored Hyde, 17-6, in the third quarter to take a two-point lead.

Cody Laweryson’s stepback jumper made it 43-41 Cavaliers early in the fourth quarter, then all three of Hartwell’s keys swung dramatically in Hyde’s favor.

“They out-rebounded us and we made a few mistakes at the defensive end, not boxing out and not getting to the help side and they took advantage of that,’ Hartwell said.

Shemar Jack started the run with a putback, then set up Greg Kidger for the bucket that put Hyde in front for good, 45-43, with 6:35 left.

“After a rough third quarter, we had to come back and do something,” Hyde coach Corey Begly said. “We stayed positive and got back to our game, spending a lot of time on rebounding and good defensive work.”

Valley committed a handful of costly turnovers in the first three minutes of the quarter. The most damaging, though, was all Montgomery’s doing, as he anticipated a bounce pass to the wing perfectly and took it back the other way, drawing a foul with his layup.

“Three or four turnovers against a team like Hyde is the difference in the game,” Hartwell said. “You’ve got to limit your runs against them. You’ve got to limit your turnovers against them in order to have a chance to win.”

After completing the three-point play, Montgomery made it 50-43 with a drive to the hoop with a little over five minutes left.

“He’s fantastic. I think he’s one of the better guards I’ve seen in D West in a long time,” Hartwell said of Montgomery. “His quickness, and more impotently with him, he’s very under control the whole time. He’s just very poised. Whenever they needed a big shot in the fourth quarter, he gave it to them, or he set up another kid for a layup.”

Laweryson ended the run with a 3-pointer to bring Valley back within four, but Montgomery answered with a jumper and an assist on a Kidger hoop that made it 54-46 with 2:25 to go. He then made six straight from the free throw line to seal it.

Laweryson led Valley with 19 points, five assists and three steals, while Collin Miller added 17 points. Kidger finished with 17 points and seven rebounds for Hyde.

Both teams split their two regular season meetings, but it was the Phoenix who asserted themselves early Wednesday thanks to Montgomery’s seven points and overall floor leadership.

“We didn’t have captains at the beginning of the year. We had guys earn it by showing leadership and Antoine and Kiefer (Cundy) showed it throughout the year,” Begly said. “He keeps us going. At the end of the third, he was made about his play, and he turned it up because of that.”

Valley battled back from a 19-12 deficit after one to tie it at 20 on a Miller hoop. But Noah Horning’s three-pointer set off an 11-0 Hyde run that put Hyde in the driver’s seat heading into halftime.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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