Ellis boys win overtime classic

Published 9:32 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

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By Brian Pitts
Enterprise Record

South Davie’s boys basketball team shaved Ellis 58-51 in the first meeting, but Jake Runge and Brady Vallance made sure the rematch was a different story.
Both Jaguars scored season highs as Ellis won 54-43 at South on Jan. 25.
Vallance’s 12 first-half points lifted Ellis to a 25-16 halftime lead. Runge and Vallance did virtually all the Ellis scoring in the third as the visitors maintained a working margin, 38-26. And then Runge closed out the Tigers as he finished with 19 points, matching the total from Vallance.
“It was a good win,” coach Ted Boger said after Ellis stopped a three-game losing streak and picked up its first win since Dec. 9. “We played hard-nosed defense that turned into some easy baskets. Our 3-point shots just seemed to come at the right time.”
Ethan Driver had six points for Ellis. Braxton Bowling and Connor Dixson had four each and Ben Reid two.
Dallas Simms had a season-high 14 in defeat. Jayce Bentley had 10, while Josiah Spillman and Noah Dulin had eight each. Jayden Warren had two and Brayden Kistner one.
NCLA 52, Ellis 48
The Jaguars flirted with a major upset on the road on Jan. 26. After trailing by 11 at halftime, they charged back for a fourth-quarter tie before losing to undefeated North Carolina Leadership Academy.
“We battled back to tie it with about four minutes to go,” Boger said. “Then we just ran out of gas.”
Runge (18 points, four 3s) and Vallance (16 points, three 3s) were dynamic again. Driver recorded eight points, three assists and two steals. Reid and Bowling had three points each.
The Falcons closed the regular season with a 12-0 record.
Ellis 49, Wesleyan 48 (OT)
Vallance came through with two pressure-packed free throws at the end of overtime, and Ellis survived a classic battle at home on Jan. 27 to put a wrap on the regular season.
“It was one of the hardest-fought games that you will ever see in middle school,” Boger said. “It was one for the ages.”
Runge was dominant in the third as Ellis surged to a 33-24 lead. The Jaguars appeared destined for a win in regulation when they held a four-point lead with 1:45 on the clock. Wesleyan Christian Academy, though, erased the lead at the blink of an eye. A Trojan drew a shooting foul. Boger was hit with a technical foul. Mac Mills of Wesleyan hit four straight free throws. Then Wesleyan hit a triple to cap a seven-point possession that left Ellis in a three-point hole.
Ellis fought back to tie and force OT. Wesleyan had the ball with a 48-47 lead. Ellis needed a turnover in the worst way, and it got it with a five-second count on an inbounds play. Then Vallance drove to the hole and was fouled with 1.4 seconds to go.
He hit both foul shots to give Ellis an exhilarating win.
Vallance (20 points) and Runge (16) were money at crunch time, combining to score 14 of Ellis’ 16 points in the fourth/OT.
“What a way to finish my last (regular-season) game,” said Boger, who will step down after the season, ending a five-year run as coach. “The whole team played hard the entire game. It was one of the best games I have been involved with over the past seven years.”
The Jaguars (5-5) overcame Owen Hancock’s 22 points and avenged a seven-point loss in December. Driver was among the reasons why with nine points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Reid had three points and Dixson (one point) ripped down 12 rebounds.
Runge has scored 53 points in three games to raise his average to 12.8. Vallance has scored 55 points in three games to lift his mark to 12.1. Driver is third at 10 points per game.
South 56, Canterbury 33
South Davie struggled to beat Canterbury in December, winning by three. The Tigers did not have Spillman in the first matchup, but they had their star player in the rematch at home on Jan. 27.
And Spillman and South manhandled the Cougars. Spillman, who had 25- and 24-point performances earlier in the season, erupted for 26 as South improved to 7-6 after losing two straight.
“We made a few shots, and we got the ball to Josiah in the lane – and he did the rest,” coach Germain Mayfield said.
Dulin had 12. Bentley, who also missed the first Canterbury game, was a key factor with 10. Simms and Kistner had three each and Ean Click had two.
For the season, Spillman is averaging 15.2. AJ Imes, who has missed three straight games, is next at 10.5. Bentley is scoring 8.5, Dulin 7.4 and Simms 6.9.
The conference tournament is being held this week.