The two best boys teams in the 4A West Conference met once again in a rematch of the season opener. Miles of progress and months of time removed from Kelly Walsh's opening 20-point win, Star Valley traveled into enemy territory to see just how far they have come. Whatever growth has been made over grueling weeks of practice simply wasn't enough on Friday night.
Star Valley didn't shy away from the challenge of the Trojans on their home court. The Braves pressured and attacked enough to grab a first-quarter lead. Kelly Walsh countered that with a rally and the experienced Trojans pulled away to secure the win, 47-31.
With the victory on Friday night the Trojans extended their current winning streak to six games -- all by double digits.
The Braves finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run to capture a five-point lead, largely sparked by turnovers and rebounds. Neither of those facets are what the Braves have been particularly known for, but they were certainly effective on Friday. Star Valley's early zone held the Trojans in check, as has been common this season. The Trojans have struggled to hit shots against zone defenses early at a lot of points this season.
"It's been something we've seen," Kelly Walsh head coach Randy Roden said. "The result ends up the same, it just takes longer to get there and it's lower scoring than one would imagine."
Roden challenged the Trojans to embolden on defense. Star Valley's patient offense forced the Trojans to stay disciplined for longer and the Braves took advantage when they weren't. Of course, for a coach with his resume, Roden knew just what the Trojans needed.
"We finally decided to go with one of our zone offenses that loosened them up and kind of exploited them," Roden said. "Their zone is a lot better than our zone in practice. That's what we noticed. Our zone looks pretty good in practice but we didn't get a lot out of it tonight."
Kelly Walsh simply overwhelmed the Braves from that point on. Star Valley scored just two points in the second quarter as the Trojans' offense showed signs of life. Still not totally in rhythm, the Trojans took a four-point lead into the break.
That lead grew to as much as 10 points based on defensive stops but Roden wasn't as encouraged as expected. He thought the turnovers were largely caused by the trap and not intense man defense. He said that he thought the Trojans were "gimmicking a way to get stops."
Then came a modest run from the Braves to trim the lead to just five and capture slight momentum.
Fourth quarter in a pivotal conference clash was no strange environment for the veteran Trojans. With revamped defensive intensity, Kelly Walsh outscored Star Valley 18-7 in the final frame, most by out-muscling the Braves and solving the press. The Trojans limited second-chance opportunities in the final quarter and hit key shots down the stretch. A corner 3 from senior Davion McAdam lifted the home fans and gave the Trojans a 12-point lead with just 3 minutes left. Star Valley didn't convert on the other end, bringing an almost uniform shoulder drop from the Braves bench.
"All of a sudden we'll hit a couple of 3s back-to-back and the margin goes from 6 to 12 and then we're able to build a margin that we keep and are maybe able to build on a little bit," Roden said. "It's a strange thing. Happened at Cody where we were tight, tight then we hit a couple shots and you look up and it's just two 3s, it's not that big of a deal, but it just doubled the margin."
McAdam scored 15 of his game-high 21 in the second half, helping the Trojans pull away. Chase Merrell and Dean Shaw both scored 10 to lead Star Valley.