AUGUSTA — Cody Laweryson took a patient approach at Saturday afternoon’s Class D state championship game.

The Valley High senior has seen just about every defense available this season designed to cut into his 24-point average. Against D North champ Easton he saw at least four, but when it came time to turn it on, he responded.

The 6-foot-4 swingman scored nine of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter and punctuated his effort with a thunderous two-hand dunk in the closing seconds to lead the Cavaliers to a 55-44 victory.

The win capped an unbeaten season for Valley at 21-0 and was its first state title since 2003 when the Cavs won a record six in a row.

“We finally ended the drought,” Laweryson said. “We finally got the state championship we’ve been looking for since this summer.”

The Bears opened with a box-and-one defense against Laweryson and later went to a diamond and one and triangle and two. He handled it well and relied on his teammates.

“I trust all my other teammates, he said. “I’m not going to force anything just because I’ve got two guys on me whenever I touch the ball.”

Senior Collin Miller turned in a strong effort with 16 points and eight rebounds while junior Austin Cates scored 11 points.

“We talked all week long we knew (what) was coming,” Valley coach Luke Hartwell said of Easton’s defensive scheme. “We saw three different films. We said it’s going to be options three, four and five that is going to be the difference if we win a state championship or not. Collin was huge today. I thought Luke Malloy, our point guard, was poised and composed. And finally Austin did a fantastic job at both ends of the floor.”

The Cavs never trailed after taking a 10-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Malloy, Nathan Ames and Laweryson each hit 3-pointers in the first quarter to stake Valley to a 23-12 lead. The Bears (15-7) didn’t fold. Logan Halvorson and Drew Sotomayor hit clutch baskets in the second quarter and held the Cavs to five points as they trailed just 27-25 at intermission.

“The state game two years ago against Hodgdon was a huge difference in our team this time,” Hartwell said. “We didn’t get rattled, we didn’t get scared. We embraced the moment.”

Cates opened the second half with a driving layup and a putback, but the Bears came back behind junior forward Jacob Flewelling (20 points). He countered Laweryson’s 3 to open the fourth period with a pair of hoops in the paint then Sotomayor nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to cut the lead to 44-42.

“I think if a couple more shots would have gone our way, it could have been a different game,” Easton coach Manny Martinez said. “That game could have gone either way. I think both teams left it out there on the court.”

The Bears made just one more basket the rest of the way while Hartwell called timeout and had his team spread the floor with one thought in mind.

“In tight games like this you want to get the ball into your best player’s hands,” he said. “We do our 10 spread-out play and if they come at us, Cody’s able to drive and get wide-open layups.”

Laweryson hit a pair of free throws on a drive to the basket and followed up with another driving layup to make it 48-42. Miller added a layup and three free throws down the stretch.

“I feel a little pressure because he’s getting doubled and tripled,” Miller said. “He’s a great player. He’s going to get his points. I just have to get my points.”

Enrollment has dwindled considerably since Valley’s last championship and this year stands at 67 students. Enthusiasm for the team has not and it appeared every soul in Bingham packed the Augusta Civic Center decked out in Valley blue.

“It’s amazing,” Miller said. “Our whole team is going to be part of that tradition now. Just bringing the Gold Ball back to make it seven now is huge for the community. It’s a great community and they all have our backs and that’s what we love about playing for Valley.”

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