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Raiders open region play with strong performance against Valwood

AMERICUS – Led by junior guard Owen Exley’s 23 points, the Southland Academy Raiders (SA) took control of the game in the first half and maintained their lead throughout the rest of the contest to earn a 64-43 victory over Valwood (VS) on Tuesday, January 7, in their first GISA Region 3-AAA contest of the season.

Throughout the game, the Raiders used their up-tempo game to score most of their points. They were able to score points by driving to the basket and by hitting shots from the outside.

Though he was pleased with the victory, there was one particular thing that bothered SA head coach Rundy Foster. That one thing was his club’s free throw shooting. “We made 20 of 34 shots from the foul line. We’ve got to do better than that,” Foster said. In spite of that, Coach Foster was pleased with the Raiders’ defense, particularly in the second quarter. For most of the game, SA was able to use defensive pressure to force the Valiants into committing turnovers.

In addition to Exley’s game-high 23 points, junior guard Nathan Duke was also in double figures with 14 points. Junior Max Foster continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc by scoring nine points off of three three-pointers.

With the victory, the Raiders improve their overall season record to 8-2 and are 1-0 in Region 3-AAA play.

For much of the first quarter, it was a back-and-forth affair between both teams. With less than two minutes to play in the quarter, the Valiants led 6-5. However, Duke scored a transition layup to give SA the lead. Then with 21 seconds left in the quarter, Max Foster nailed a three-pointer to give the Raiders a 10-6 lead. VS responded with a basket by Michael Tucker, but Duke was able to score as the horn sounded to give the Raiders a 12-8 lead to start the second quarter.

Southland junior point guard Nathan Duke drives to the basket. Duke scored 13 points in the win over Valwood.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Raiders continued to be aggressive in the second quarter and drew fouls by driving to the basket. As a result, they were able to score four unanswered points to take a 16-8 lead. However, both teams went through a dry spell until Exley was fouled again and made one of two foul shots. The Raiders ended up getting a steal on the Valiants’ next possession and Exley was fouled again. This time, he made both free throws to give the Raiders an 18-8 lead. For the most part, the SA defense was strong as the Raiders made it difficult for the Valiants to score. With 2:30 to go before the half, the Raiders led 20-10.

However, with less than two minutes left before halftime, Max Foster drained another three-pointer to put SA up 24-12. That was followed by one made free throw by Duke. Then with less than a minute left, Exley drilled a three-pointer to put the Raiders up 28-14. Exley finished off the first half for the Raiders when he drove to the basket and scored to give SA a 30-14 lead at halftime.

Exley scored 15 of his game-total of 23 points in the first half. As a team, the Raiders made 11 of 19 free throw attempts in the first half.

Both teams got off to a slow start to begin the second half, but the Raiders had a 34-18 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter. That lead was increased to 18 points when Landon Law hit two free throws.

Southland senior guard Adam Smith looks to pass the ball.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

However, VS responded with three straight points to cut the SA lead to 15, prompting Coach Foster to call a timeout. Right out of the timeout, Adam Smith was able to knock down a three-pointer to the Raiders up 39-23.

During the remainder of the third quarter, both teams traded baskets, but the Raiders still maintained a 46-32 lead by the start of the final stanza.

SA started out strong to begin the fourth quarter as Hunter McCain scored on the inside. Duke followed that up by driving to the basket and scoring to increase the SA lead to 50-32. That prompted VS head coach Andy Stamschror to call a timeout.

However, that timeout did not help. The Raiders went on a 7-1 run, capped off with a three-pointer from Carmello Volley. VS tried to respond by playing an up-tempo game like the Raiders were playing, but couldn’t get shots to fall.

On the other hand, the Raiders were able to build up a 62-39 lead, which was capped off by one made free throw from Chase Ledger.

As the game wound down to its finish, the Raiders continued to execute on both ends of the court and finished with the 64-43 victory.

The Valiants (1-7) were led in scoring by Allen Harris with 11 points and Russell Hunter poured in 10 points in the losing cause.

Up next for the Raiders is a non-region contest at Terrell Academy on Friday, January 10, at 8 p.m.