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Friends Become Foes: Union Boys Basketball Team Uses 30-5 Run Over Final 12 Minutes to Dispatch A-C Valley in Battle of Football Co-op

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — During the fall, they are teammates.

But once the chill of winter arrives, they become foes.

(Above, A-C Valley’s Lane Bauer guards Union’s Caden Rainey away from the play as Skyler Roxbury drives to the hoop)

Such is life when it comes to male athletes at A-C Valley and Union High Schools. During the football season, a co-op blends the two together. During basketball season, though, they return to being rivals.

Union got the best of the rivalry this time.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

The Knights led by just three at 38-35 midway through the third quarter, but then used a 25-2 run to blow the game wide open and outscored the Falcons 30-5 over the final 12 minutes for a 68-40 win Wednesday night at A-C Valley High School.

“I told them, ‘You’re not friends tonight,’” said Union coach Eric Mortimer with a grin.

There were lots of smiles and pleasantries throughout the game — for the most part. After all, this isn’t exactly a new thing between the two schools. The co-op has been around since 2016.

Four key football players were in the starting five for Union; A-C Valley had three key contributors on the gridiron in its starting lineup.

That makes it a bit strange still for the players and the coaches.

“It’s definitely weird,” said A-C Valley coach Anthony McGarvey. “You see the Union guys all summer and all fall — we spend all that time with these guys — and then here comes basketball season and the gloves are coming off. Sometimes I think it puts a little pressure on guys for both schools.”


The only pressure early was being applied by Union.

The Knights (6-2, 2-1) jumped out to a 13-2 lead and took a 22-9 advantage into the second quarter.

But A-C Valley (4-4, 2-2) stormed back. Alex Preston scored eight of his 10 points in the quarter and Brody Dittman scored five of his team-high 11 in the frame to get the Falcons back into the game.

A-C Valley got as close as 28-24 thanks to its 15-2 run and trailed 34-28 at the break.

It was a three-point game with four minutes remaining in the third when the wheels came off for the Falcons.

“The first quarter was rough, but I was proud of our boys in the second quarter,” McGarvey said. “I felt like we had momentum and in the locker room the boys were hyped up. We got Union on their heels a couple of times, but they wanted it more for all 32 minutes. They played a better game.”

Union wanted to play up-tempo in the hopes of tiring out A-C Valley’s bigs.

“We wanted to run because there aren’t too many teams in as good a shape as we are,” Mortimer said. “The kids get upset because I maybe run them too much, but it pays off in games like this.”

Union was also balanced with four players scoring in double digits.

Caden Rainey led the way with 19. Bailey Crissman added 13, Payton Johnston 12 and Zander Laughlin 10 off the bench.

A-C Valley tried an interesting approach to try to contain Rainey.

McGarvey gave Lane Bauer the task of face-guarding Rainey, and he took his assignment seriously. Bauer followed Rainey everywhere he went, even standing toe-to-toe (and nose to nose) with Rainey far away from the play.

It had unintended results.

“When I was at Reynolds that’s what my coach there did,” McGarvey said. “When one team had a good player, he would literally have whoever was face-guarding him meet the bus and follow him to the locker room. He wanted to know what kind of deodorant he used and what kind of gum he chewed. So I was joking with Lane that he could be a (District 10) prospect.

“You know, basketball is just as much mental as it is physical, and I was kind of hoping that would ruffle Caden’s feathers a little bit,” McGarvey added. “All I did was throw gas on the fire.”

It was a big win for a young Union team that has aspirations to win the wide open District 9 Class A.

“I told them the season starts today,” Mortimer said.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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