Bellbrook’s Gabe Pavlat tries to drive past a Valley View defender during Friday night’s game at Bellbrook. Nick Falzerano/CONTRIBUTED

Kozarec’s heroics lift Valley View past Bellbrook

Destined to play shortstop for Point Park University in Pittsburgh following graduation, Valley View’s Max Kozarec had planned to skip his final basketball ride.

Then Week 10 of the football season hit. So did second thoughts.

“I was watching senior night,” Kozarec said. “I realized that I’d regret it if I didn’t play (basketball) with my friends. I decided to come out.”

Kozarec made a memory Friday.

»RELATED: Friday’s scores, boxscores

Hitting the game-winning 3-point shot with five seconds left, the senior guard’s dagger propelled the Spartans to a 62-61 overtime victory at rival Bellbrook in a key early season Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division contest.

The Spartans improve to 3-2 overall and in league play. Bellbrook drops to 4-2, 1-2.

“He contacted me that night,” Valley View head coach Butch Stidham, also the Spartans defensive coordinator, said. “He asked me if he could still come out and I told him as long as he was there the next day – yes. He’s started for us ever since.”

Kozarec did not play in the Spartans 57-54 double-overtime win at Bellbrook last season, and ended the year with one 3-pointer in five attempts in nine games. He hit four 3s against Bellbrook.

Sophomore J.T. Ferguson led the Spartans with 19 points (four 3s) while Kozarec finished with 12. Senior post Justin Bromagen added nine points and 19 rebounds.

“We wanted the ball in Max’s or J.T.’s hands at the end,” Stidham said. “When they helped down, Max popped to the top wide open. Our big threw it out and (Max) hit a huge shot.”

“I knew right away I was going to shoot it if I got the ball,” Kozarec said. “I was feeling the 3 tonight. As soon as I caught it I said ‘This is going in.’”

Coming off a 6-17 season, Bellbrook was looking to win its fifth game, which didn’t happen last year until Feb. 2. Despite the loss Friday, the Eagles own two of the area’s most impressive road wins – a 60-43 victory at Beavercreek (which has since beaten Springfield and lost in OT to Wayne) and a 66-63 victory at Franklin. Both of Bellbrook’s losses have come at home.

“The two teams we’ve lost to are big, physical teams,” Bellbrook head coach Donnie Tate said. “We played better tonight against Valley View than we did against Monroe, but turnovers are our Achilles heel right now. We stop turning the ball over, we’ll be even tougher to beat.”

Bellbrook sophomores Gabe Pavlak and Ashton Ault led the Eagles with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Senior Evan Lakins added 11.

Valley View’s victory reinforces that the SWBL Southwestern race will be brutal. The Spartans are looking for their first league championship since 2003. Bellbrook and Franklin have won 14 of the last 15 Southwestern titles. Brookville is the defending champion.

“We joked earlier and said the league is kind of like the Big Ten this year,” Stidham said. “Everyone is going to go on the road and it’s going to be a hard-fought game. This is a year that a three-loss team could win our league because of how strong it is.”

Said Kozarec: “This proves we can compete with anyone.”

Eric Frantz

MaxPreps.com

937-554-0477 (text/cell)

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