In their first game of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast on Saturday, Spring Valley could find neither the offense to keep up with or the defense to hold back preseason No. 1-ranked Wando (6-0).
Wando won 57-54 to advance to Monday’s National Division semifinal. Spring Valley, 4-3, was led by senior Malik Dunbar, who posted 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s the defense that hurt us,” Spring Valley coach Perry Dozier said. “We started off too slow. We came out and played with much more intensity in the second half, but the first half we were real tentative, and it hurts. It hurts when we don’t come out with the defensive intensity, I think that’s what makes the offense work.”
With seven minutes to go, buckets from PJ Dozier and Dunbar helped Spring Valley narrow what had been an 11-point gap to two points. Warriors senior forward Taylor Majewski put up a three to extend the lead, but Noah Harper responded with a 3-pointer, and Javondii Myers’ put-back layup tied the game with less than six minutes to play.
But then Majewski knocked down his seventh three of the night to put the score at 50-47. Dunbar knotted the score with 3:10 left, stroking a long jumper from the corner off an inbound pass. And with 2:12 to go, Dunbar’s mid-range jumper put the Vikings in the lead, after trailing for more than 25 minutes.
But with 39 seconds to go, Majewski drained one more 3-pointer, tying the tournament record of eight. Majewski finished with a game-leading 25 points.
Dunbar and Dozier had gotten things going for the Vikings offense, but Wando used its big lineup to overtake the Vikings quickly. Wando took its lead after four minutes on a steal and fastbreak dunk from Amp Moore.
Three-pointers from Majewski and Micah Stewart pushed the Warriors’ lead to eight points as the Vikings were scoreless for nearly two minutes.
Ryan Lee’s layup off an assist from Dozier broke Spring Valley’s silence, but at the eight-minute mark Wando led by 6.
Wando worked its inside-out game, with Darius Wade and Jordan Coakley feeding Taylor Majewski and Matthew Pegram on the perimeter. But Dunbar’s fast and physical defense kept the Warriors in check. Along with his six points, Dunbar posted nine rebounds and a block in the first half.
Wando led 29-24 at the break.
Both teams missed out on a lot of points at the stripe – the squads combined for 50 percent free throw shooting in 32 first-half attempts.
“I don’t know if it’s just that they’re not used to playing in front of big crowds, but we’ve got to get past all that now,” Dozier said. “It takes them a whole half to get warmed up and get after it. I’ve got to figure out a better way to get them started right away,” Dozier said.
The Vikings were 7-of-30 from the field in the first half, and 20-of-63 on the night.