ALBANY — The Alexander Spartans have seemingly always been in the mix in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division, but for a long time a league title has eluded them.
Caleb Terry and the Spartans made sure that would no longer be the case after Friday night.
Terry dominated the visiting River Valley Raiders on Senior Night, leading Alexander to a 57-35 victory.
The win allows Alexander to clinch its share of the TVC-Ohio championship, the first league title for the program since 2006.
“It feels really good,” Alexander head coach Jim Kearns said. “It’s been 14 years and we’ve had some tough seconds recently. There’s some really good teams in this league in the past few years. To have a 14-year drought and break that, I’m just very proud of this team completely and the senior group for sure.”
The league championship is the eighth in program history for Alexander, and the fifth since winning back-to-back TVC titles in 1980 and 1981.
A strong senior class helped the Spartans end that drought. They faced adversity when they dropped their second league loss to Meigs just 10 days earlier.
Alexander (15-7, 10-2 TVC-Ohio) responded by winning its final three TVC-Ohio games, sharing the top spot with Athens for the 2019-20 season.
“They showed some grit,” Kearns said. “It would have been easy to start feeling sorry for ourself and looking at our bad luck and things that had happened — a good season gone bad — and they decided that that was’t going to be their final chapter.”
Terry was literally at the center of Friday’s title-clinching victory. The 6-foot-10 senior had 19 points on 9 of 13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal.
Terry helped set the tone with a first-quarter dunk, as the Spartans aggressively fed the ball into their senior post player.
“He’s put together two really nice games back to back and couldn’t be picking a better time to do it, as we roll into tournaments,” Kearns said. “We’ll keep riding him and expecting big things from him.”
While the Spartans made sure their seniors got proper recognition on Friday, freshman Kyler D’Augustino put together another solid outing.
D’Augustino scored 17 points — all coming in the first half — while also handing out a game-high five assists. He added six rebounds and five steals.
The Raiders (5-16, 1-11 TVC-Ohio) enjoyed a good start and led the Spartans 18-16 late in the first quarter.
River Valley made three 3-pointers early in the game, causing Kearns to switch up his defensive strategy.
“We decided that they had a coupe kids that we felt we could keep Caleb under the basket and not guard real hard while everyone else did,” Kearns said.
The Spartans weren’t leaving any open shooters in the second quarter, and the result was a shutout. Alexander led 36-18 by halftime after winning the second quarter 18-0.
“The second quarter, we said we’re just going to play Alexander basketball,” Kearns said. “We’re going out, we’re getting a man, we’re going to get on a line, attack through all the screens and everyone turned up their intensity.”
The Raiders went 8 minutes and 57 seconds without a point, resulting in a 22-0 Alexander run after Terry scored to open the third quarter on another post up.
The Spartans pushed the lead to 45-24 — a 29-6 run — after Trey Schaller passed inside again to Terry for another basket.
Alexander was able to get curtain calls for its seniors in the fourth quarter. Terry, Schaller, Lucas Markins, Kaleb Easley, Luke Chapman, Colby Carsey and J.K. Kearns have been playing sports together since elementary school.
Kearns, unfortunately, is out for the season with a major knee injury, but the rest of the group contributed to the win. Easley had 12 points and three assists, Chapman added four points and seven rebounds, Markins had two points, Carsey scored three points and Schaller added two assists, three rebounds and two steals.
“These kids have just been pretty tight knit,” Jim Kearns said. “They all know each other and their families. It was certainly bittersweet to see all those kids up there on the screen (before the game) knowing that they’re up there moving on, but the world deserves these kids out there. They’re going to do big things.”
The group has already accomplished big things on the court at Alexander, and now can focus in on the tournament for more accolades.
The Spartans travel to Jackson High School on Tuesday to face Rock Hill at 6:15 p.m. in the Division III tournament opener.
Alexander 57, River Valley 35
River Valley 18 0 11 6 — 35
Alexander 18 18 11 10 — 57
RIVER VALLEY 35 (5-16, 1-11 TVC-Ohio)
Dylan Fulks 3 3-3 10, Brandon Call 3 0-0 8, Chase Caldwell 0 0-0 0, Jordan Lambert 4 0-1 8, Mason Rhodes 0 0-0 0, Cole Young 1 0-0 3, Jordan Burns 2 0-0 4, James Shiver 0 0-0 0, Matt Mollohan 0 0-0 0, Chad Brewer 1 0-0 2, Cameron Hess 0 0-0 0, Ethan Schultz 0 0-0 0, Chase Barber 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 14 3-4 35; 3-point field goals: 4 (Call 2, Fulks, Young 1 apiece)
ALEXANDER 57 (15-7, 10-2 TVC-Ohio)
Lucas Markins 1 0-0 2, Kaleb Easley 4 2-2 12, Trey Schaller 0 0-0 0, Colby Carsey 1 0-0 3, Caleb Terry 9 1-2 19, Kyler D’Augustino 6 2-2 17, Luke Chapman 2 0-0 4, Cam Houpt 0 0-0 0, Isaac York 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 23 5-6 57; 3-point field goals: 6 (D’Augustino 3, Easley 2, Carsey 1)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — River Valley 14-46 (.304), 3-point field goals 4-14 (.286); Alexander 23-46 (.500), 3-point field goals 6-18 (.333); Free throws — River Valley 3-4 (.750), Alexander 5-6 (.833); Rebounds — River Valley 22 (Call 5), Alexander 35 (Terry 10); Assists — River Valley 5 (Caldwell 2), Alexander 13 (D’Augustino 5); Blocks — River Valley 1, Alexander 2 (Terry 2); Turnovers — River Valley 12, Alexander 9; Steals — River Valley 5 (Lambert, Rhodes 2 apiece), Alexander 10 (D’Augustino 5); Team fouls — River Valley 5, Alexander 4; JV game — Alexander 51, River Valley 22