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Miller leads Great Valley past Avon Grove

EAST WHITELAND — Sometimes injuries and adversity bring out the best in a team.

When things get tough, the tough get going.

Saturday night, in the opening round of the Great Valley Holiday Tournament, the host Patriots were without two starters. Doug Strang and Geoff Rice were out due to injuries and point guard Mark Miller is still hobbling on a bad ankle. The Patriots had to rely on their bench and on playing smart, error free basketball.

All Great Valley did was pull together and behind a game-high 24 points from Miller and took the opening game, 49-45, over a tough Avon Grove squad.

Great Valley will now play Upper Dublin, a 63-53 winner over Harriton in Monday’s championship game at 7:30 p.m. The Patriots turned the ball over just six times in the contest.

“My ankle hurt before the game and it was tough getting started but once I got into the game I sort of forget about it,’ Miller said. “I mean it was next man up for us and losing Geoff and Doug meant we all had to play smarter and play good defense and help Buck (Ryan Buchholz) on the boards. We all played real hard and it was since to come away with the win.’

Great Valley (6-2) came out on fire, shooting 6-for-10 from the field in the first period. The Patriots sank three 3-pointers on the night, all in the opening frame. At halftime, the Patriots led the Red Devils 23-17. They shot 10-for-20 while the Red Devils (0-7) shot just 5-for-18 from the field.

The third period saw Avon Grove cut the lead to 26-23 with just over four minutes to play in the period. The Red Devils got inside scoring from Quinn Parsons, who fouled out late in the game, with seven points. But, after Avon Grove got it to 26-23, Great Valley went on an 11-0, run that put the game away.

Miller stripped the ball and glided in for a layup to make it a 28-23 game. Buchholz then put in a follow to make it 30-23. Buchholz was the game’s leading rebounder with 11 boards.

Great Valley then scored five more unanswered points to close out the period with a 35-23 lead. Avon Grove went the final 4:12 of the third period without scoring a point.

“We got close to them but then we went cold,’ Avon Grove coach Ken Riale said. “We just could not get stops but we played hard and things are starting to come together. If we play hard we can play with anybody out there.’

Avon Grove shot just 1-for-8 from the field in the third period and fell behind by 12 points at the end of the quarter. Great Valley continued its run in the fourth. Andrew Wineienger, who had eight points for the Patriots, scored in tight to make it a 37-23 game. But, Parsons stopped the run by converting a Patriot turnover into a slam dunk to make it 37-25. Jarrod Reilly scored in tight to make it a 39-25 lead and it looked like Great Valley was home free.

But, the winless Red Devils did not quit. Behind two long 3-balls from Tyler McCrory and one from Chris Barto, the Red Devils got to within six points with 1:02 to play. But, Miller was money from the foul line all night and he hit two big ones late to preserve the Great Valley victory.

Despite, being short handed the Patriots roared into Monday’s matchup against a very good Upper Dublin team with some momentum.

“We executed well on offense and defense tonight,’ Great Valley coach Paul Girone said. “And without those two guys, it was next man up. And these kids were ready because they work so hard in practice everyday. Tonight they showed a lot of character and got the win. And give Avon Grove credit. They played hard until the end.’

Notes — Great Valley shot 22 foul shots while Avon grove shot just seven from the charity stripe.

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