On a night that it probably counted most, A.C. Flora responded with one of its worst shooting performances of the season. The defending state champion Falcons never could find the range, and the result was Midland Valley earning its first boys basketball state title with a 62-56 victory Saturday night in the Class 3A title game at Colonial Life Arena.
A.C. Flora shot 33.3 percent. When they did have a shot to get back in front, they couldn’t make shots.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm, offensively,” A.C. Flora first-year coach Joshua Staley said. “We got pretty good shots, we just never got into a good rhythm. I thought we defended well, but Midland Valley shots the lights out. It happens that way sometimes. But I’m proud of these kids. They fought and become brothers. They mean the world to me.”
The Mustangs were making their first championship game appearance.
Coach Mark Snelgrove and senior Kameron Brown, who scored a team-high 16 points, said losing to the Falcons in a December holiday tournament turned out to be key. A.C. Flora won by 13 then, but it was a different story this time.
“I don’t think we were surprised this time,” Snelgrove said. “Their athleticism gave us trouble. But this time, I knew we wouldn’t be scared on back off. The guys executed the the things we coached.”
Brown echoed those thoughts.
“We came out and played Mustangs basketball,” Brown said. “We were well-prepared for this game. Our coaches prepared us well with film and scouting reports, and we executed the game plan. We came out flat that first time we played them, and they jumped on us. We knew what to expect and how they liked to play, and we just got the job done.”
A.C. Flora senior Rion Davis knew to expect a different performance from Midland Valley. He said this time around, the Falcons were the ones not ready.
“They wanted it more than us,” Davis said. “Our shots weren’t falling, so the better team won, I guess. We didn’t bring as much to the table tonight as we did in December. There are no excuses.”
Midland Valley took control early with a 15-0 run that sandwiched the first and second quarters. Brandon Davis tied it for A.C. Flora at 12 with a tip-in with a little more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Bryan Johnson and Kameron Brown added 3-pointers to open the second quarter as the Falcons broke a long drought with a 3-pointer from James Murray-Boyles at the 3:55 mark.
That shot sparked a 9-0 run by Flora to pull back within 27-21 with two minutes remaining in the half. Tayler Wade gave the Mustangs a 29-21 lead at the break with a layup.
A.C. Flora shot 36.4 percent in the first half while Midland Valley was 50 percent. Things didn’t change much in the second half. The Mustangs shot 64.3 percent and made 12-of-18 free throws to keep the Falcons at bay.
The Falcons were able to pull close a few times, the last being down 49-45 with 4:11 remaining. Rion Davis completed a three-point play, and the Mustangs were whistled for a technical foul for slamming the ball down. Murray-Boyles made one-of-two free throws but a charge call prevented them from getting closer.
Aaron Ray got free underneath for a layup, and Broderick Brown added two free throws with 2:56 remaining to push to lead to 53-45. It never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Kendale Hampton led A.C. Flora (25-5) with 19 points. Murray-Boyles added 12, and Davis finished with 11.