By PATRICK MacCOON
Banner Sports Writer
CHATSWORTH, Ga. — The No. 47 was a lucky one for Walker Valley’s basketball programs, as each scored that number of points in winning efforts and …
CHATSWORTH, Ga. — The No. 47 was a lucky one for Walker Valley’s basketball programs, as each scored that number of points in winning efforts and improved to 2-0 in the North Murray Holiday Tournament, despite shooting a combined 15-of-34 from the free-throw line Tuesday night.
In a low-scoring affair in the tournament being held in Northwest Georgia, junior guard Kolten Gibson stepped to the plate and poured in a game-high 16 points. He was the only scorer in double figures for either side and accounted for more than a third of Walker Valley’s points in a 47-35 win over host North Murray.
“Our starting lineup is so versatile,” said Gibson, who is the only non-senior starter for the 7-6 Mustangs. “We are all kind of the same size and same players really, because we basically are all guards. Every one of our starting five can come out and lead the team in scoring.”
Gibson’s efforts in the opening eight minutes of play set the stage for a showdown with District 5-AAA rival McMinn County in the Holiday Tournament championship game scheduled for 7 tonight.
Showing assertiveness early — one of the traits which observers feel helped Gibson set school records as a quarterback, — Gibson propelled the Mustangs’ offense by scoring eight points and draining his second 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to help his team take a 15-8 lead after one quarter of play.
“I was really feeling good in the first quarter,” said Gibson, who made three treys in the first half and scored 11 of his teams 24 points. “My teammates were finding me and I wanted to give us a spark. It was big to get off to a good start, because we struggled tonight offensively.”
Walker Valley sophomore Jordan Munck also tallied a trey as well in the final minute of the period, this one from the top of the arc. With Gibson realizing his opponent was not boxing out, he crashed the lane for an offensive rebound and kicked it back.
Gibson also rejected two shots and stole two passes in the best defensive showing for the Mustangs since a 55-35 defeat of Red Bank on Nov. 29.
“Kolten is long for a guard,” Walker Valley head coach Bob Williams said of Gibson’s height and wingspan. “He is a tough matchup for an opposing team because he jumps so well. He is taking good shots for us, and if you get too close he is able to go around you too.”
Senior guard Zach Eslinger once again provided a spark defensively and his three steals give him eight overall in two tournament wins for Walker Valley.
While North Murray (6-6) threatened to make a comeback down 36-30 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs’ defense clamped down while Bryce Nunnelly, Cooper Melton and Gibson scored all the points in an 11-5 run to set in stone a matchup with a district foe.
“The game tomorrow (Wednesday) of course won’t count towards either of our district records, but McMinn County is playing really well right now,” Williams said. “They beat a good Northwest (Ga.) Whitfield team today (73-66) and we are going to have to play good basketball to beat them.”
The last meeting with the Cherokees ended in a 73-67 triumph for the Mustangs in a home game back on Dec. 6.
Walker Valley will once again rely heavily on its starting five, but bench guard Isaiah Johnson has been hot lately, scoring 16 points over his past two games. He along with Munck and Zeke Westfield combined for 21 points in Tuesday’s win.
The left-handed sophomore shooter scored his seventh and his eighth and final point of the night on a 14-foot pull-up jumper in front of the Mustangs bench to let WV take a 32-20 lead with 2:03 left in the third quarter.
“We did not hit a lot of the shots we made (Monday) night, but it was a good win,” Williams said. “It’s huge for us to have people come off the bench and do what Isaiah did again for us tonight. When we sub, we are not letting up any.”
Walker Valley will turn its sights on taking home the North Murray Holiday Tournament title tonight, as Gibson and his teammates prepare for a familiar matchup.
“To win this tournament would give us a lot of momentum heading back in to the regular season after Christmas break,” Gibson said. “We have already played McMinn County before, so we know what they are going to do and they know what we are doing. It is going to be a good game.”
LADY MUSTANGS 47
LADY MOUNTAINEERS 24
Behind an extra effort from its guards to go after missed shots, Walker Valley landed a season-best 45 rebounds, including 18 offensive caroms in yet another strong defensive effort in the Holiday Tournament to improve to 8-5 on the season.
In back-to-back victories over Murray County (Ga.) and North Murray, the Lady Mustangs have excelled with their press defense and not allowed their opposition to score double digits in a single quarter over the last eight quarters, in which they hold a 102-43 advantage.
“We did a good job rebounding as a team, no question about it,” Walker Valley head coach Paul Cretton said. “I was also proud about us only turning the ball over seven or eight times. We really took care of the basketball and while we didn’t shoot well (25 percent on field goals), we went and got those misses, and that always will give you a chance.”
Sophomore point guard Abbey Davis scored a game-high 16 points and crashed the glass for eight rebounds along with fellow guard Lauren Lay, who was the only other player to score in double figures for either side with 11 points.
Davis’ lone 3-pointer of the night gave Walker Valley a commanding 39-17 lead with under two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Lady Mustangs recorded six straight rebounds early in the fourth quarter, with Lay snatching up three of the hard-earned boards. No offensive player for the host team scored in double figures and North Murray only got two points in the paint the first half.
The loss for the Lady Mountaineers (8-4), who like Walker Valley also have had a five-game winning streak at one point this season, produced their lowest-scoring output of the season. North Murray opened the tournament with a 63-54 victory over Dalton (Ga.) on Monday.
The sixth-year school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers in Kailee Tipton led her team with nine points, on three treys.
“I came to watch them play last night (Monday) and (Sarah) Plemons is a really good point guard and (Kailee Tipton) made all five of her threes in the first half yesterday, and I think she ended up 7-of-9. We found a way to match up well against two really good players.”
Walker Valley will look to keep its hot play up as it takes on Dalton at 10 a.m. today looking to finish the North Murray Holiday Tournament as the only undefeated girls team, along with possibly McMinn County.
Walker Valley15 9 10 13 — 47
North Murray 8 6 11 10 — 35
MUSTANGS (47) — Kolten Gibson 16, Johnson 8, Munck 7, Westfield 6, Nunnelly 6, Melton 2, Eslinger 2, Murphy, Zakkas.
MOUNTAINEERS (35) — Langford 9, Tipton 7, McConley 6, Frazier 5, Cox 3, James 1, Hulett, Jackson, Buckner.
3-POINTERS: WV 4 (Gibson 3, Munck); NM 5 (Tipton, Cox, Frazier, McConley, Langford).
FREE THROWS: WV 1-of-7; NM 6-of-9.
RECORDS: WV 7-6; NM 6-6.
Walker Valley 16 10 14 7 — 47
North Murray 3 8 8 5 — 24
LADY MUSTANGS (47) — Abbey Davis 16, Lauren Lay 11, Clark 6, Anderson 6, Walker 5, Jones 3, Nipper, Patel, Kile, Knipp, Baker, Fowler, Gibson.
LADY MOUNTAINEERS (24) — Tipton 9, Plemons 6, Tipton 3, Lee 3, Grider 2, Katelyn O. 1, Garland, Burns, Plemons.
3-POINTERS: WV 5 (Clark 2, Lay, Walker, Davis); NM 4 (Tipton 3, Tipton).
FREE THROWS: WV 14-of-27; NM 6-of-13.
RECORDS: WV 8-5; Murray County 8-4.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE