APPALACHIA — Revenge, the old Sicilian saying goes, is a dish best served cold.
It was cold in Appalachia Wednesday night. But Twin Valley left its pizza box full of vengeance somewhere back at Pilgrim’s Knob.
Fabulous Forrest Stuart scored 26 points as the Bulldogs took a 62-43 win over the Panthers in Region D, Division 1 tournament action at Appalachia.
The Bulldogs (21-4) defeated Twin Valley (11-13) in last year’s Region D divisional championship game.
“We didn’t know what they were bringing, but we knew they still had that Josh Smith dude,” said Stuart, who had six assists, six steals and five rebounds. “We figured he’d give us trouble.”
Smith, a muscular 6-foot-2 forward who is being recruited by King, Bluefield and several other small colleges, caused most of his trouble in the first half. He scored 19 of his 27 game-high points to keep the Panthers within eight at intermission.
“He’s carried us for four years,” said Twin Valley coach Brian Moore, whose squad lost veteran Lucas Shortridge to a torn ACL in mid-season. “(Smith) does all the dirty work. For 13 games in a row we’ve faced either a box and one or a double-team out of a zone. It’s been very difficult to get him the ball and our other kids have had to step up.”
Wednesday was Smith’s best outing in four or five games, according to Moore. But the balance of the roster didn’t step up enough to absorb Appalachia’s third-quarter surge.
The Bulldogs led 43-24 after Mladen Bogicevic’s post move with 2:05 remaining in the period.
Appalachia coach Pat Jervis was pleased with his team’s overall performance, but was frustrated to see the Bulldogs give up five points to the Panthers over the final seven seconds on three consecutive turnovers.
“We took care of business, but we weren’t as sharp as we could’ve been,” said Jervis. “That was ridiculous to give them the five-point swing at the end. We had a 19-point lead and that cut it to 14. But, you know, this is a funny game. You can’t give anybody anything.”
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Panthers had given all they had. Two and a half minutes into the final frame, Appalachia was parlaying steals into transition buckets and pushed the lead back up to 20. Twin Valley just couldn’t keep up.
Bogicevic had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Tyler Hall added 10 points. Josh Allen had six rebounds and four assists and Mason Stuart contributing three steals and two assists, also taunting Twin Valley’s zone defense early in the first half with a couple of 3-pointers.
Brandon Viers had eight points for the Panthers. Smith corralled 12 rebounds and had two steals and a block.
Appalachia faces Hurley in Friday’s semifinals at Lebanon at 6:30 p.m.