By Erik Harris
PINSON — The shots just didn’t drop like they’ve been dropping for Donevan Waldrop and Pinson Valley (12-20), as the Indians fell to Shades Valley 61-54 Tuesday night in Mike Dutton Gymnasium.
VIDEO: Watch Pinson Valley head coach Clint Argo talk about the playoff loss.
The Mounties (12-16), in a game that stayed tight from start to finish, managed to build an eight-point lead midway through the final frame, and executed 15 of their 19 fourth-quarter free throws to advance past the Class 6A Northeast sub-regional.
In total, Shades Valley went 25-for-35 from the charity stripe. The Indians only shot 11 free throws and missed six of them.
“That’s tough when you’ve got a team that’s making free throws like that down the stretch when you have to foul,” said Pinson Valley head coach Clint Argo.
Waldrop was benched midway through the first quarter for not getting the Area 12 champions into their offense, but the point guard started the second quarter for Argo and quickly tore into the Mounties’ six-point lead.
He got out in transition for a pair of buckets before landing the first of his two triples to put the home team on top 18-15 with 4:51 remaining in the half.
“(Waldrop) is the spark plug that gets the engine going, that’s for sure,” said Argo. “He was our leader all year long on the floor with how he played and everybody kind of picked up off his energy.”
Moments later, junior Trey Minnifield extended Pinson Valley’s lead to five, but a Shades Valley push evened the score at 24-all going into the break.
Mounties’ center Trendon Watford, despite only being an eighth-grader, went to work over the final 16 minutes of play. His rangy presence was felt by the hosts on both sides of the floor.
“I mean, he’s good,” Argo said. “We knew that when we had to go into a man defense, that he was going to attack the rim and we didn’t do a very good job of sliding over and taking his penetrations away.”
Watford powered through a defender for his final basket of the evening, increasing his team’s advantage to 47-39 with 4:14 remaining. He finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points, pulling down 14 rebounds and blocking three shots.
Claude Newell also notched a double-double for Shades Valley. He went for 15 points, 11 boards and a pair of blocked shots. Newell went 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
For the Indians, Waldrop scored 17 points to go with four rebounds and two steals. Minnifield just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Cornell Hale worked his way to nine points and three boards.
The Mounties will face Scottsboro on Friday at 10:30 a.m. at Jacksonville State University in the Northeast Regional.