Guards pave way to Central Valley's Section 2 upset

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Central Valley coach Brandon Ambrose said his team had a bad taste in their mouth after two gut-wrenching losses last week.

A sweet win against the No. 1 team in Class AAA was exactly what the Warriors needed.

Central Valley combined excellent guard play with physical defense to earn one of the biggest victories in program history Tuesday, a surprisingly lopsided 74-53 win against visiting Section 2 rival Beaver.

The Warriors (13-6, 7-2) now find themselves in position to grab at least a share of the section title after dealing Beaver (15-2, 8-2) its second loss of the season. Those teams, along with Blackhawk (11-7, 7-2), appear to be the three contenders for the section crown. Central Valley split their two meetings with Beaver and already own a win against Blackhawk.

"This sets us up well," said Central Valley guard Brian Kolich. "We control our own destiny. If we win out, we'll win the section."

Kolich and fellow junior guard Michael Sims were terrific. Kolich scored a game-high 20 points and Sims added 18. The duo controlled the tempo and took care of the ball against Beaver's pressure.

"I thought their guards controlled the game. They were the difference," said Beaver coach Andy Podbielski.

Beaver's other loss was to Blackhawk Jan. 15. The Bobcats are one of two teams to have beaten No. 2 Chartiers Valley.

When Beaver played host to Central Valley Jan. 4, the Bobcats led by as many as 27 points in the third quarter before the Warriors cut the deficit to three late in the game. Beaver held on for a 78-72 win.

In that meeting, Beaver got a huge game from 6-foot-5 senior center Aaron Barlow, who scored 26 points. Barlow came into the rematch averaging 20.8 points per game, but Central Valley did an excellent job defensively against him this time around. Barlow did not score until there was 3:34 left in the first half, and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

"Barlow can be almost unstoppable down there," said Ambrose. "We played him slightly different this time. But mainly, I thought our kids played a lot tougher than the first time and the help defense was tremendous."

Corey Nesmith led Beaver with 14 points and Austin Logan chipped in 12.

Central Valley was coming off two tough road losses -- a 38-32 overtime defeat against Ambridge, and a 62-59 loss to Class AA No. 1 Beaver Falls.

But for Central Valley, there's no place like home. The Warriors improved to 8-0 on their home court by outplaying Beaver from start to finish. Kolich hit the first of his four 3-pointers midway through the first quarter to put Central Valley in front, 9-6, and the Warriors led the rest of the game.

Central Valley led, 33-25, at halftime, and began the second half on an 11-3 run to take a commanding 44-28 lead. Barlow scored to make it 55-43 early in the fourth quarter, but Central Valley responded with a 9-0 spurt.

Sims made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and 12 of 14 in the game. Overall, Central Valley was 24 of 30. Beaver was 12 of 17.

"This is such a huge win," Kolich said. "We had been waiting for another shot at them. We gave an unbelievable effort tonight."

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