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Despite being among the six seniors playing in their last home game Tuesday, Maple Valleyâ€™s Ty Smith hardly seemed bothered by what tends to be be an emotional game for players.
The Raiders had little problem beating Sargent Central 77-43.
Smith looked at as a â€śgood win to go out onâ€ť, but hardly saw it as the end.
â€śItâ€™s going to be emotional but weâ€™ve got a long road hopefully,â€ť Smith said.
Though the road may not cross through the friendly confines of Tower City again this year, the ninth-ranked Raiders are hoping it will continue on through districts and into regionals with a final stop at the Class B state championship tournament.
With three games left in the regular season, things are looking good.
The Raiders are now 15-1 this year, with only one loss â€” a 73-43 loss at No. 4 Central Cass in the second game of the year.
Since then, the team has gone on a 14-game win streak powered by balanced scoring from players including seniors Smith, Ethen Preston, Dylan Lerud and junior Jordan Haseleu, and a tight man-to-man defense that has a tendency to cause turnovers.
â€śWeâ€™ve been doing well since Christmas break,â€ť Smith said. â€śWeâ€™ve been shutting teams down and playing good offensive basketball.â€ť
Tuesdayâ€™s win didnâ€™t stray much from the formula.
In the first three minutes of the game, the Raiders had multiple turnovers and struggled to hit shots, but with 5:03 left in the first quarter, senior Wade Steidl hit a midrange jumper to start a 20-8 run the rest of the quarter.
The run kept it balanced. Smith finished the quarter with six points, Lerud and Haseleu had five, and Steidl and Preston each had four.
From there, the Raiders increased the lead to 46-19 by halftime and 67-32 by the end of the third, largely due to play from Haseleu and Smith.
Of the 43 points scored in the middle two quarters, the duo combined for 34, which was set up by a team effort to create turnovers and make plays. In the second and third, Haseleu knocked down six two pointers and went 3-4 at the free-throw line to score 15. Smith hit seven twos, one 3-pointer and went 2-2 in free throws for 19.
Smith led the team in scoring during the game with 25 points and Haseleu finished second with 22.
Defensively, coach Jay Kocka said, the team just needed to limit Sargentâ€™s 6-feet-7-inch senior Justin Arp.
Arp had at least two inches on 6-feet-5-inch Maple Valley sophomore James Richman, the Raidersâ€™ tallest player, and senior Travis Pfau, the teamâ€™s second tallest player at 6-feet-4-inches.
Throughout the game, the Raiders had few problems rebounding against him and allowed no more than four points a quarter from him. He finished the game with a team-high 12 points.
â€śHeâ€™s a big time scorer around here and our kids did a great job defensively,â€ť Kocka said.
He was the only Cadet to hit double figures. Teammate Jake Schlecht hit eight points, seven in the third quarter, and Justin Mlnarik and Levi Jablondsky had seven points each.
The Raidersâ€™ scoring was rounded out by Lerud with nine points, Preston with eight and Steidl with seven.
In the Raidersâ€™ 14-game win streak, it was the fourth straight in which the team outscored an opponent by at least 21 points.
The team looks to keep the win streak going at Kindred Thursday.
Kocka is optimistic with the post-season rapidly approaching.
â€śWeâ€™re starting to do a lot of things right,â€ť he said. â€śOffensively, weâ€™re starting to score more points. Defensively, weâ€™re picking it up, and I think our guys are starting to come together and play as a group.â€ť