Central boys fall to Valley Center 68-61

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Andover Central's Brian Perry (left) drives by Valley Center's Eli Isaacs (right) on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Andover Central High School in Andover, Kansas. Perry finished with a team high of 17 points in the 68-61 loss to Valley Center.

ANDOVER, KANSAS — Eli Isaacs went to the line 21 times and scored 25 points on the night as the Valley Center Hornets took down the Andover Central Jaguars 68-61 on a cold Tuesday night. 

Isaacs, the senior for Valley Center, found himself at the line frequently, especially in the second half. He hit 10 of 15 free throw attempts to help Valley Center hold off a comeback by the Jaguars. 

"It's tough when you have a player go to the line that many times," first year Andover Central Head Coach Tyler Richardson said. "We're young and we're still learning how to play in those big moments."

It appeared Andover Central (0-3) had battled back in this one. After leading by one at the break, Valley Center (3-1) charged out of halftime to take an 11-point lead on a 19-7 run. However, the Jaguars battled back on the back of Brian Henry, the sophomore. 

Henry scored seven of 11 points during a run that saw the Jaguars pull within 50-49 at the end of the third quarter and then Kamden Wilson give them the lead for only a brief moment at the start of the fourth.

Then, it was Isaacs' time. 

Isaacs scored 11 of the 18 points Valley Center scored in the fourth quarter, nine of them at the free throw line. 

"Those teams that have varsity experience know how to take it up a notch when the fourth quarter rolls around," Richardson said. "We're still learning how to get there. 

Richardson's constant reminder of how young his team is at this moment is not an excuse and you can tell by his voice and demeanor. A team that only had one real varsity player back, Skyler Clevenger, are forced to throw players who had only experience at the JV level into the fire. It's a different speed. 

"We're good but we're just not there yet," Richardson said. "We will be though."

Despite the winless record, the Jaguars aren't far from where they want to be. A fluke buzzer beater on Saturday and a late shot last week away from being 2-1. That is how basketball goes. 

There are signs as Perry's burst in the third quarter to keep the Jags in it shows there is real ability there. 

Their two leading scorers this season are both sophomores with Perry averaging 15.3 points per game and Clevenger averaging 13.0 ppg. 

The building blocks are there and there will be bumps in the road on their way to winning. As the cliche goes, you'd rather be losing now, than in February.

"I keep reminding them about the bigger picture," Richardson said. "These nights might hurt now but end the end, it'll be worth it."

Central will now get their chance at their first win on Thursday against winless Salina Central. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Andover Central High School. 

"Both teams are going to be hungry for that one," Richardson said. 

Valley Center - 15;13;22;18; - 68

Andover Central - 14;15;20;12; - 61

Valley Center: Isaacs 25, Phillips 19, Darlrymple 9, Harden 7, Simmons 6, Wilson 2

Andover Central: Perry 17, Clevenger 14, Ray 11, Sears 9, Wilson 6, Buffington 4

Team stats (unofficial)

Valley Center (3-1)

FG: 21/40 (52.5%) 3PT: 7/12 (58.3%) FT: 19/29 (65.5%) TO: 11

Andover Central (0-3)

FG: 24/47 (51.1%) 3PT: 4/18 (22.2%) FT: 9/12 (75%) TO: 13    

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.