AUGUSTA — The Valley boys basketball team hasn’t been tested often this season. The Cavaliers had just one regular season win by fewer than 20 points. When challenged by Seacoast Christian on Saturday afternoon in the Class D South final, however, Valley came up big.

Down by six points midway through the second quarter, Valley rallied to take the lead before the half, then held off a strong push by the Guardians to earn a 52-45 victory to advance to the Class D state championship game for the second time in three years.

“They came out firing, and I think we came out a little nervous,” Valley senior Cody Laweryson said.

Laweryson scored a game-high 26 points, including six 3-pointers, and was presented the John Messina Award as the tournament’s most outstanding player.

No. 1 Valley, now 20-0, will face Easton in the state championship Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center. No. 3 Seacoast Christian finished 14-7.

“I think the guys, after the first two games, realized (Valley’s) beatable. They realized what they had to do to beat them. We had our chances but we gave it up at the end,” Seacoast Christian coach Matt Cardinal said.

This game was much different than the two regular season matchups between these teams, which won by Valley by 32 and 16 points.

“The last time we played them was six weeks ago and in the world of basketball that’s an eternity,” Valley coach Luke Hartwell said. “I thought the guys really responded. We didn’t have our best game and give credit to (Seacoast), they played great.”

Caleb La Croix paced Seacoast throughout the first half, scoring 10 of his team-high 16. The Guardians were able to get out and run early, taking the game to the Cavs. A pair of Sky Archer free throws gave the Guardians a 20-14 lead with five minutes to play in the second quarter.

“We talked in scouting reports how La Croix likes to leak out in transition. He’s very good at it. The other thing is, the Archer brothers (Jet and Sky) really stepped up big time as well. (Tim) Yeaton is very tough in the post,” Hartwell said. “I thought they put more effort into it than we did in the first half.”

Down six points, Valley closed the half with a 10-0 run. Laweryson made a long 3-pointer with 46 seconds left to give the Cavs the lead for good, 22-20. Collin Miller’s putback layup as time expired in the half gave Valley a 24-20 lead. Valley’s pressure defense was a key factor in the run, with Austin Cates cutting Seacoast’s lead to one, 20-19, on a layup after his own backcourt steal.

“We needed something, a big shot. We needed a couple baskets to get ourselves ahead and carry it over to the second half,” Laweryson said.

Added Hartwell: “We hit key free throws when we had to and Laweryson stepped up big time. We had three or four guys sick today and guys didn’t make excuses, played through it, and now they’ve got a couple days to rest and get ready for a good Easton team.”

Seacoast Christian’s defensive game plan was to pack the paint with a 2-3 zone, forcing the Cavs offense to the perimeter. It worked for a while, with just Laweryson making outside shots.

“Cody, no matter what, is going to get his points. So you’re just hoping nobody else steps up and makes more than 10, 15 points,” Cardinal said. “They only had one other guy in double, so I think we did our job. We didn’t do our job on offense.”

In the second half, Valley was able to work the ball inside more, and Miller scored nine of his 14 points. The Cavs led by nine points in the third quarter, only to see the Guardians trim the lead back to a point, 30-29. Laweryson hit a baseline fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give Valley a 37-31 lead going to the fourth quarter.

Valley made 10 free throws in the fourth to seal the victory. Laweryson finished with 10 rebounds and three blocks, while Miller added seven boards.

Sky Archer scored 12 points for Seacoast. Yeaton had eight points and 18 rebounds.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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