MUNHALL, Pa. — Just over a month ago Steel Valley made a trip to Keystone Oaks and allowed a fourth-quarter lead to slip away as the Golden Eagles rallied to win 52-51. Tuesday evening, the Ironmen returned the favor as they beat the Golden Eagles 71-66.
The Ironmen controlled play early on and nursed a small lead until Tulio Watts (17 points) pushed the Golden Eagles ahead 52-51 heading into the fourth quarter. To start the fourth, the Golden Eagles looked as if they would pull away as they increased the lead to 55-51.
Steel Valley answered with a string of their own buckets to regain the lead and then they never looked back. A trio of free throws by Makhai Valentine and a clutch and-one by Cruce Brookins sealed the deal in the last 90 seconds.
Valentine finished with a game-high 39 points and Brookins finished with 12 points. Freshman Nahjir Norris also finished with double-digits for the Ironmen with 14 points.
After the loss to Keystone Oaks on December 20th, Steel Valley sat at 1-6 and was playing sloppy basketball. With the win on Tuesday night, the Ironmen now sit at 8-9 and 6-2 in Section 2 games. The source of this turnaround is senior guard Makhai Valentine, who is averaging roughly 35 points per game this season.
Standing at 6-foot-3, Valentine is a mismatch for any guard at the high school level. He can shoot the three from the college range and will jump out of the gym in regard to dunking and playing defense. He had two huge blocks in their win over Keystone Oaks, with one looking similar to LeBron James’ chase-down block in the NBA Finals a few years ago.
Most teams will gameplan around Valentine with double-teams that rarely slow him down.
“The problem [for other teams] is when every team double-teams me, they won’t double me the whole game. They let off in the second half so that is when it is time for me to go and when they are double-teaming me that means they are leaving [Cruce] open, who is the best athlete I know, so I will put my money on him every time,” said Valentine.
Valentine currently holds Division 1 offers from Sam Houston State and South Alabama. The relationships that he built with the respective programs are family-like.
“They’re great, they feel like my family to me,” said Valentine.
Additionally, Valentine told Pittsburgh Sports Now that he has been in talks with UMass, Denver, and Chatanooga among others.
If he can continue to score with ease and push the Ironmen to more victories, the offers should begin to roll in.