Apollo-Ridge overcomes rough start to earn section win over Valley

Friday, January 22, 2021 | 9:33 PM

After overcoming a rough start in its second game of the season Friday, the Apollo-Ridge boys basketball team took a small lead midway through the second quarter of its matchup with Valley and never looked back.

Senior guard Jake Fello scored 26 points, and Klay Fitzroy chipped in 17 as the Vikings (2-0, 2-0) cruised to a 61-53 Section 3-3A win over Valley (1-3, 1-2).

“A section win on the road, we’ll take that any way we can get it,” Fello said. “With their student section over there, we’ll take that anytime we can.”

In a hotly contested game, Valley and Apollo-Ridge went back and forth through the first half and traded the lead six times.

Valley held the lead for a majority of the first quarter. Behind five points from guard Ben Aftanas, who led Valley with 17 points, the Vikings held a four-point lead after the first eight minutes.

But midway through the second quarter, momentum started to swing toward Apollo-Ridge.

“We had so many turnovers in the first quarter. We just started being patient and started getting good shots,” Apollo-Ridge coach Greg Fox said. “End of the first, going into the second, we stopped turning the ball over, got good shots, and started hitting shots. It was that simple.”

With about five minutes left in the half, Fitzroy hit a step-back jumper in the corner and immediately received a technical foul for what Fox said was two players talking back and forth.

But that was when things started to change for Apollo-Ridge.

“At that point, we knew we could get what we wanted from these guys, and we just took care of it,” Fello said.

With 4 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half, Fitzroy drove through the lane for an and-1 basket, and Apollo-Ridge took a two-point lead it never gave up.

Valley didn’t go away, though. The Vikings stayed in the game and trailed by only three going into halftime. Then, after a back-and-forth third quarter, Valley’s Xavier Wilson hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to keep his team within four points. But they couldn’t get close enough.

Fello scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and Fitzroy scored six of his 17. Senior Keighton Reese hit three of his four 3-pointers in the second half to help close out the game.

“We have five ball handlers, five shooters, and it makes it hard for teams to play us and our kids did a nice job,” Fox said. “I was glad to see us attack the basket, and we got a bunch of layups there and they were trying for charges as you saw. But our guys were just doing a good job of attacking the basket and making easy shots.”

Fox was happy with the way his team closed out the game to earn its second win over a sectional opponent.

“Any section win on the road feels great,” Fox said. “But give Valley credit. They worked hard. They played well. We just got hot in a couple little stretches there, built a lead and held on.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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