There were several factors that played into Shelby Valley’s 69-58 win over Paintsville Wednesday night.
The first one was the play of Zach Johnson on offense.
Johnson was lights out as he finished with a game-high 31 points, six rebounds and two assists. Johnson made 12 of his 13 field goal attempts on the night including going seven for seven from three-point range. Johnson’s offensive output helped put the Wildcats over the top in the game.
Another factor was Shelby Valley’s swarming defense.
The Wildcats’ constant pressure bothered Paintsville all night. The Wildcats only forced eight turnovers and came away with three steals, but the constant pressure made everything a bit tougher for the Tigers all night. Paintsville finished the game 19 of 47 from the field (40.4 percent), but all of the their shots were contested for the most part.
The other big factor for the Wildcat win was Shelby Valley out rebounded Paintsville 35-23. The Wildcats’ starting center (Anthony Pallotta) played point guard last season.
Paintsville got off to a quick start in the first quarter. They used a 10-2 run to end the first quarter and take a 14-9 lead. Connor Fugate came up with an offensive rebound and put-back for the score to beat the first quarter buzzer.
Johnson started to heat up in the second, though. Pallotta opened the quarter with a basket and then Johnson knocked down back-to-back threes to give the Wildcats a 17-14 lead with 4:45 left.
Colby Fugate stopped the run by splitting a pair of free throws by cutting the lead to 17-15 with 4:33 left.
Colby Fugate came up with a steal and a fast break dunk with 3:12 left to cut the lead to 19-17.
Johnson knocked down his third three of the night with 3:04 left in the second to push the lead to 22-17.
Ryan Gibson scored for Paintsville with 2:04 left to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 22-21.
Shelby Valley responded by ending the half with a 7-0 run. Pallotta scored on back-to-back trips and then, Russ Osborne knocked down a three to beat the halftime buzzer and give the Wildcats a 29-21 halftime lead.
Jaxon Watts kept the Tigers alive in the third quarter. He knocked down four threes, but Shelby Valley held a 48-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter of play.
Colby Fugate opened the fourth by knocking down three out of four free throws to cut the lead to 48-43.
After Pallotta split a pair of free throws, Johnson knocked down another three to push the lead to 53-43 with 6:29 to play.
Colby Fugate scored again and Connor Fugate split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 52-46 with 5:43 left to play.
Colby Fugate led the way for the Tigers with a team-high 16 points.
Paintsville kept hanging around, until Johnson knocked down another three with 3:50 to play and then the Wildcats went 10 for 10 from the free-throw line to finish the game (Kaden Robinson was eight for eight from the free-throw line in the final 3:18 of the game and Keian Worrix was two for two in that stretch).
Besides Johnson’s 31 points, Worrix finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. Robinson finished with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Pallotta finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Chaz Brown finished with six points, five assists and three rebounds.
For Paintsville, Watts finished with 13 points on four of six shooting from three-point range. Braxton Tharp also reached double figure scoring with 10 points. Connor Fugate added seven points and eight rebounds. Baron Ratliff and Gibson each scored six points for Paintsville.
Shelby Valley fell to Pikeville 41-40 Friday night in the 15th Region All “A” Classic championship at the Appalachian Wireless Arena.