With his team leading by three points with time winding down, Valley boys basketball coach Brian Farnsworth knew Clark was going to try to get the ball to senior Carter Olsen.
Farnsworth’s players made sure Olsen didn’t get an open look.
Olsen finally got off a shot from the top of the key, but Nick Brannon deflected it and the ball fluttered harmlessly into the hands of Valley’s Shea Garland as the fifth-ranked Vikings held on for a 54-51 road win over the second-ranked Chargers on Saturday.
“Obviously the Carter kid is a great player and a good shooter,” Farnsworth said. “And we just switched out on all screens and got a hand up and deflected it. It was all the kids. They just competed. They were refusing to lose tonight.”
Clark (4-2) called timeout with 16.5 seconds left to set up the final play. But the Chargers couldn’t get the ball to Olsen right away. Once he got it, Brannon made sure he didn’t get off an easy shot.
“We all know Olsen’s the best shooter on Clark’s team,” Brannon said. “I stepped up, and I wanted the challenge to guard him, and that’s what I did.”
It was fitting that Brannon came up with the deflection on the final play. The 6-foot-3-inch senior had been Valley’s blue-collar worker all night, coming up with 13 rebounds and making life generally miserable for whichever Clark player he was guarding.
“He’s probably the best-kept secret in town,” Farnsworth said. “I’ll go on record saying he’s probably the best defensive player in the whole entire city of Las Vegas. Having a guy like that on your team’s invaluable. If I could take five of him on my team, I don’t know if the other team would ever score.
“He does all the dirty work, and all he cares about is winning. You’ve got to have guys like that, and he’s a special kid.”
Valley (7-0) led for most of the second half, but the Chargers took a 50-49 lead on two free throws by Darius Jackson with 3:13 to play. The Vikings had struggled shooting from the outside, but senior Cameron Burton pulled up off the dribble and nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:31 left for a 52-50 lead. Valley wouldn’t trail again.
“Cameron’s a four-year varsity player, a three-year starter, and he expects to make that shot when he takes it,” Farnsworth said. “He’s not afraid to take it, and he came through at a key moment for us.”
Darrion Daniels led a balanced Valley attack with 13 points. Burton had 12 points and four assists, and Brannon and Garland each scored 10. Taveon Jackson had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Vikings, who had a 41-24 rebounding edge.
Ty’Rek Wells paced Clark with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, and Olsen scored 10.
“Since I’ve been on the varsity, we haven’t gotten a win against Clark, so it felt good to come out here and get the win,” Brannon said. “It was a hard game, but the better team came out with the win. We wanted it more. This is our year.”
Contact reporter Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.