RICHMOND — Before every game in the All "A" playoffs the last few weeks, Shelby Valley Coach Jason Booher has shown his team a highlights video of the Wildcats winning the small-school title in McBrayer Arena last year.
"I want them to remember what it felt like when they picked up that trophy," Booher said.
His motivational ploy is working. Shelby Valley is one victory away from repeating as champ in the boys' Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic.
The Cats, rated sixth in the state, beat eight-time titlist University Heights Academy 67-54 in the semifinals Saturday afternoon.
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They will play DeSales in Sunday's title game. The Colts slipped past Glasgow 67-58 in their overtime semifinal.
Shelby Valley didn't pull away from UHA until a 12-2 run expanded its lead to 58-44 with five minutes left. UHA never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Elisha Justice had 25 points and five rebounds to lead the winners. Ashley Hatfield had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Tyler Newsome added 16 points.
Booher called it a "heavyweight boxing match," and his team was more physical, outrebounding UHA 38-28, including twice as many offensive boards.
The Cats made only three turnovers, and hit 23 of 35 free throws.
UHA was led by Matt McGowan (24 points) and Ryan Hudson (18 points, eight rebounds).
Blazers Coach Randy McCoy, who doesn't have a senior on his roster, thought Shelby Valley's all-senior starting lineup gave it an edge.
"Their experience is what makes them better," he said.
"But I thought we battled, We didn't back down. We competed."
DeSales 67, Glasgow 58 (OT): After leading by 20 in the first half, DeSales wound up holding on for dear life and surviving in overtime.
Blowing leads and winning close games are nothing new for the Colts, who beat Newport by three in the first round, clipped Hazard by four in overtime in the quarterfinals, and escaped Glasgow in a semifinal nail-biter.
Coach John Mingus can't figure out his Colts' penchant for living on the edge.
"I don't want to say we don't know how to win, but when we get a big lead the kids get too anxious," he said. "But they don't want to lose, either. When things get tight, they make plays, they find a way."
Derek Thornsberry led DeSales with 20 points, and Brandon Ritchie had 17 points and six rebounds. Nick Roush added eight points and seven rebounds.
The Colts did a good defensive job on Glasgow star Cameron Hall. The 6-1 senior had 33 points, but needed 34 shots to get them.
"That's fine by me," Mingus said. "I don't think he had a clean look all day."
With Glasgow trailing 37-20 at halftime, Coach Jeff Hall said he and his team "talked about what type of personal pride and effort we'd have in the second half."
The Scotties answered with a stirring comeback, but Hall said it sapped his players' energy. "To scratch, fight and claw our way to overtime was tremendous," he said. "But once the overtime started, we had a letdown."
DeSales outscored Glasgow 14-5 in the extra period.
"We stayed calm because we've been in overtime games before," Roush said. "We knew what it'd take."
DeSales 67, Glasgow 58 (OT)
DeSales (13-7) — Maynard 6, Brooks 9, Ritchie 17, Sanford 7, Thornsberry 20, Blackwell 8.
Glasgow (16-5) — Cash 2, Glass 3, Hall 33, K.Bradley 15, M.Bradley 5.
DeSales 16 21 3 13 14—67
Glasgow 7 13 12 21 5—58
Shelby Valley 67, University Heights 54
Shelby Valley (16-3) — Justice 25, Hatfield 18, Ta.Newsome 6, T.Tackett 2, Ty.Newsome 16.
University Heights (14-8) — Blane 3, McGowan 24, Vance 1, McNease 4, Hudson 18, Smith 2, Ladd 2.
Shelby Valley 19 10 17 21—67
University Heights 19 4 19 12—54