Valley boys team sees progress despite narrow loss in tourney

Valley’s best player had the ball with an open look and the game on the line.

He lined up the 3-pointer and the release was good, but the ball just wouldn’t go down. And that’s OK with Valley coach Brian Farnsworth.

Khristian Kirkwood’s potential game-tying shot rimmed out at the buzzer Wednesday as the Vikings fell 67-64 to Mesquite (Ariz.) in the Amare Stoudemire bracket championship at the Amare Stoudemire Each 1 Teach 1 National Invitational at Durango.

“I thought it was good when it left his hand — I’m sure he thought it was good — but it went out,” Farnsworth said. “We can accept that. We’ll learn from this experience and get better.”

The team already has come leaps and bounds since last season, when Valley went 10-18. Despite having just one senior on the roster, Valley is off to an 8-2 start. Farnsworth hopes to build on his team’s 3-1 run in the tournament once Northeast League play resumes after the new year.

“We have a ton of confidence,” Farnsworth said. “As bad as we wanted to win this game and win the championship, in the big picture of things, those conference games are what’s important moving forward.”

Valley put itself in position to win Wednesday, leading 53-49 after an Angelo Coleman free throw with 6:36 to play.

But Mesquite’s Isaiah Strong was fouled taking a 3-pointer on the next possession, and he hit all three free throws to start an 11-0 run that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.

Valley cut its deficit to 67-64 on a 3-pointer by Adalberto Garcia with 22 seconds to play. The Vikings forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, and Garcia was fouled with 3.9 seconds left. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Royce Finley rebounded and passed it out to a wide-open Kirkwood, who couldn’t get the 3-pointer to fall.

Kirkwood finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, and Christian Kessee added 18 points for the Vikings.

“For this team, the sky’s the limit, and we can just continue to get better every day,” Farnsworth said. “Good or bad, we’ve kind of made a name for ourselves from here, and now we’ve got to come to play every single night.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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