PIKEVILLE, Tenn.–Thursday night theatrics and last second heroics abounded as Bledsoe County’s Joey Vanvalkenburg stuck a dagger in the heart of rival Van Buren County with a last-second score to seal the 59-58 victory.
And although Vanvalkenburg may have been the hero of the night, his stat sheet read otherwise with a whopping two points before his game-winning shot. Sometimes, it’s merely a matter of quality over quantity.
“All he does is just gut it out and play his rear off,” Warriors head coach Lucas Nunley said, referring to Vanvalkenburg. “Two nights ago, we’re playing Notre Dame here and the kid hasn’t played but for four or five minutes. I put him and he racks up four straight assists. He hung basketball up for a while and then came back out this year, and he’s just gutted it out every single night.”
Before the late game drama began, Bledsoe County started out hot hold a minute lead for a limited time in the first quarter. Van Buren County hopped on top late in the first and held on to roughly a ten-point margin for most of the night.
“We were stagnant offensively all night,” Van Buren County head coach Dustin Sullivan said. “We didn’t do any of the the things we worked on to attack that kind of defense, and we didn’t battle as much as they did. We weren’t ready to play. We’re just underachieving right now.”
Van Buren County’s Caden Mills and Bledsoe County’s Riley Meloncon put on a show midway through the second quarter, scoring a combined 28 points in the first half. Threes were everywhere to be found as both teams put on a clinic at times before creeping back down into the post.
“We were just trying to keep grinding the entire game,” Nunley said. That’s a good ball team in there. It seemed like every time we got the margin down a little bit, they just busted a three on us. I was an assistant coach on oretto two years ago, and these Van Buren guys, they fight. They’re a scrappy bunch. They don’t go down easy.”
Eventually, though, the Warriors found a way to cut deep into the deficit and inched toward the Eagles by making stops on the defensive end of the court. Vanvalkenburg shot happened within the last minute, but there was still plenty of time on the clock for Van Buren County after a walking foul was called on Trail Hyatte.
“As the game worn on right there at the end, I felt like we got a little better,” Nunley said. “Mills had some time, and he probably hits that shot nine out of 10 times. I thank God that tonight was the one he missed. We got a good stop and we came out on the good side of things tonight.”
Van Buren County travels to Marion County Tuesday night for a District 6A rematch while the Warriors host another rival in Sequatchie County Friday night in the hardwood renewal of The Battle for the Stump.
VBHS — 18 | 15 | 20 | 5 || 58
BCHS — 12 | 13 | 19 | 15 || 59
VBHS (58) — Caden Mills (34), Jacob Crain (10), Jared Binkley (7)
BCHS (59) — Riley Meloncon (23), Trail Hyatte (16), Cole Angel (15)