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Steel Valley's Ironmen too strong for Belle Vernon Area

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Belle Vernon's Jason Capco (13) puts up two in the 2nd quarter against Steel Valley's Dylan Smith (2) at the Belle vernon Area High School on Wednesday, December 18,2013.

After a shaky start, the Belle Vernon Area Leps looked like they had the Steel Valley Ironmen on the ropes in their Section 4-AAA contest Wednesday night.

On the strength of five three-pointers, BVA overcame a rough first quarter to enter halftime only down four, 30-26.

But then Ajan Smith happened.

The Steel Valley senior guard exploded for 20 second-half points – and one tremendous dunk that put an exclamation mark on the game midway through the fourth – and the Ironmen (5-1, 1-1) cruised to an 81-47 win.

“He is a tremendous player” Steel Valley head coach Shawn McCallister said. “We told him before the game that we needed a big game out of him and then we really challenged him at halftime and he stepped up and really took over.”

It took the Leps nearly four minutes to get on the board in the first quarter before Billy Burrows hit a pair of identical threes from the corner to spark the home team. With SV big man Dom Keyes owning the paint, the Leps (2-2, 1-1) found it increasingly harder to penetrate the zone and resorted to perimeter shooting.

Travis Snyder would provide most of the offense for BVA in the first half, shooting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, while Jason Capco added six points of his own in the quarter.

“They were playing a 3-2 zone and we were running some plays to either screen the ball up top or throw over the zone, looking for skips,” BVA coach Kyle DeGregorio said. “I think we played really tough, really hard and really smart in the first two quarters and that kept us in the game.”

But after a series of turnovers in the second quarter resulted in the Leps storming back to take a 23-21 lead, it was all Steel Valley from then on out.

The Ironmen started the third quarter on a 10-2 run to make it 40-28 before things started to get out of hand.

“Our intensity in the first half was way down,” McCallister said. “We didn't come out ready to play basketball and we told our guys at halftime that we need to turn up the intensity and pick up their game. We know what our abilities are and what we are capable of and in the second half the kids came out and played like we expected them to.”

Smith finished with a game-high 31 points and he was joined in double-digits by Keyes (14 points) and Dorian Broadwater (13 points). Keyes, Broadwater and Brandon Donavan combined for 23 second half points.

“We go into the half down four and we're right there, but then the third quarter hits,” DeGregorio said. “They are a talented group, just a really talented bunch of players and Coach McCallister does a real nice job with them. They're athletic, they are disciplined and they have been playing together for a long time; they are an experienced group.

“They took it to us for about a three-minute stretch in that third quarter where it was like a prize fight; we were dazed and they just kept coming. But to the kids' credit, I thought we fought hard until the end.”

Capco paced the Leps in scoring with 15 points while Snyder added 12 on the strength of four 3-pointers. Despite the fact that the Leps have been outscored 91-44 in the second half of their two losses, DeGregorio remains optimistic.

“My guys haven't been in a position where we have invested this much time or emotional energy in anything and, much like at Uniontown, I thought we just ran out of some emotional gas at the end there,” DeGregorio said. But we will get better. Tonight is one night, that's all it is. We are 1-1 in the section and now we go to Christmas break and some extended practice time to figure out what our identity is before we hit section play again.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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