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Kittanning slowed by flu bug but still beats Valley

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 10:48 p.m.
Kittanning's Alek Schaffer moves the ball upcourt amidst pressure from Khaanan Briggs (back right) and Dayon Lloyd during a 52-39 home win over Valley on Friday, Dec. 22, 2012.
Valley's Billy Clark looses his footing after trying to elude Noah Kunst (left) and Alek Schaffer during a 52-39 loss at Kittanning on Friday, Dec. 22, 2012.

Kittanning coach Bill Henry wanted his kids focused on the rims Friday night against Valley, but several of the Wildcats had other baskets — waste, specifically — on their minds.

A flu bug affected several of Kittanning's players and forced the Wildcats to simplify and slow their play during a 52-39 home win over the Vikings. Half- and full-court zone defense, applied by Kittanning's collection of 6-foot-plus starters, proved sufficient against Valley's undersized, young lineup in the Section 1-AAA matchup.

“We did what we needed to do defensively,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “We just couldn't finish, and I think that was a combination of kids just moving a step slower and not feeling so good. I don't want to make an excuse. You have to give Valley credit, because they played hard and made us look that way.”

Kittanning (7-0, 3-0) opened the game with a 6-0 run that included three baskets in transition, including two fast-break field goals by Alek Schaffer. Tyler Gardlock's backdoor cut and lay-up put Valley (1-4, 0-3) on the board with 4:10 left in the first quarter, but the high-percentage look proved rare, as the Vikings struggled to work the ball inside.

“With that length, they make it hard to get the angles that you'd normally have,” Valley coach Phil Cope said. “They make you pass around them. You're going to have to come out on the back end and make shots, and we just didn't make enough.”

Kittanning's flu bug left the team with a shortened bench — Eric Hulings and Nick Bowers were unable to play in the second half — and limited energy to continue pushing the ball for quick baskets. A 30-16 halftime lead for Kittanning shrank to an 8-point margin by the end of the third quarter as Valley's Mike McNabb made two 3-pointers, Gardlock scored twice in the paint, and D'Aundre Johnson had a put-back and a 3-pointer.

The turnover troublereturned in the fourth, as the Vikings had eight giveaways. Gardlock finished with a game-high 15. Henry, also dealing with flu symptoms, led Kittanning with 13 points.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wwest@tribweb.com.

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