After lighting up the scoreboard with a third-straight 40-plus-point performance, Valley View High School senior Zach Denny took one final shot Friday night. This one, though, came courtesy of a Jefferson Bronco. As the two sides went to their benches for the postgame handshake, one Bronco put himself in Denny’s path and delivered a chest bump following the Spartans’ thrilling 70-66 come-from-behind win.
“It’s part of the game,” said Denny, who retaliated with a smile as he continued to the Valley View bench. “I’ve been facing that four years now.”
If you’ve never seen Denny play it’s easy to assume he’s a gunner. He’s not. He takes 42 percent of his team’s shots, but he’s making 46.2 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range. On Friday he took 29 shots (and made 15) against Jefferson. Nine other Spartans combined for 26 (and made eight).
“If he’s averaging 25 percent shooting a game, you can say, well, okay (maybe he shouldn’t be shooting so much),” Valley View coach Ben Buehner said. “But if he’s averaging 50 percent a game seeing the defenses he’s facing it’s hard not to let the ball be in his hands.”
If you’ve never seen Denny play, you should. Broncos defenders couldn’t stop his penetration to the basket even though they knew it was coming. In the first quarter he tied the game at 19-19 by hitting a 22-footer with a defender in his face. In the third he halted a Broncos’ rally with another quick-release 3-pointer. He finished the game scoring five of the Spartans’ final seven points, all off free throws.
If you’ve never seen Denny play, take the advice of Jefferson coach Art Winston, who has coached some pretty good ballers in his tenure with the Broncos.
“I enjoyed watching him play. I didn’t enjoy losing, but he plays the game the right way,” Winston said. “He’s legit. He plays an all-around game. I got a lot of respect for his demeanor and his coaches, too. The kid is a reflection of his coaches. He doesn’t talk trash.”
After his 44-point outing Friday — he scored 41 and 51 in his previous two games — Denny increased his area scoring lead to 36.1 points per game. But he’s not the Spartans’ only scoring option. Cooper Nolte entered the weekend averaging 11.5 and Ethan Brown 9.4.
Nolte took a defensive rebound and went baseline-to-baseline for a key basket to start the second half. Andrew Zellner scored off a Denny pass to cut Jefferson’s lead to 62-59 with three minutes left in the game and converted two bonus free throws to put Valley View up 67-64 with 56 seconds to play.
Denny said he and his teammates know the challenge Buehner faces keeping all the players (and sometimes parents) happy. As for Denny, there’s only one number he wants to lead the area in.
“Wins. I just want to win,” said Denny, who averaged 28.8 points last season. “Whatever it takes for our team to win is what I want”
Added Buehner: “As a coach you know you’re not going to please everybody. You do what you think is right for the team to win. He’s a playmaker and we like the ball in his hands. He draws attention.”
He certainly got Jefferson’s on Friday night — both during and after the game.
“He’s probably one of the top players in the state of Ohio,” Winston said. “I don’t think the game has changed, but every so often you get a kid who can shoot from halfcourt. Like a Jim Paxson or a John Paxson. You never know where they’ll pop up, but he’s one of those kids.”
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