The last time Valley Center scoring phenom Tyler Brown faced Newton, he dropped 50 points.
In Newton’s last six games, the Railers are 6-3 with wins over Salina Central and Maize. Freshman Ty Berry has a 24.1-point average during that span.
The two meet Thursday in a Class 5A sub-state semifinal as Valley Center (7-13) travels to Newton (8-12). Another scoring outburst is almost sure to occur between Brown (29.2 average) and Berry (21.5).
“Those are two kids that can score in bunches, inside and out,” Valley Center coach Ty Unrau said.
“Both of those guys are obviously very gifted at scoring the basketball and they’re always in attack mode,” Newton coach Andy Hill said. “When you’re up against a kid like Tyler Brown, who’s averaging close to 30, you know he’s going to score his points. It’s our job to make his night as difficult as possible and every shot he takes as difficult as we can make it.”
That’s what was in the game plan when Newton was preparing for a Dec. 13 game against Valley Center, as Brown scored a career-high 50 points in a 72-66 Valley Center victory.
It was possibly the low point in Newton’s 0-6 start.
“You never want to be the team in the story that everybody is reading about the kid who scored 50,” Hill said. “It was tough. The guys took it personally that we let that happen and I took it personally that I didn’t put them in a better position and have a better scheme to stop him or make better adjustments during the game.”
“After the game it was like, ‘Did he really just score 50 against us?’ ” Newton senior Nathan Ahrens said. “You definitely have a lot of respect for him, but he hit some wild shots that night. We wanted this rematch to get another opportunity at them.”
It’s true that Newton is essentially a different team than it was in December.
Berry has come alive in the second half of the season, as he has found a balance between his outside shot and attacking the rim. He has also formed some nice chemistry with 6-foot-6 sophomore Damarius Peterson, while Ahrens has been a reliable second scorer, Cailen Valdez has become a lock-down perimeter defender, and C’Anthony Kelley has been a menace on the offensive glass.
After a 3-10 start, Newton rallied to win five of its final seven games to secure a semifinal home game.
“The start of this season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but we kept working and we got better and now I think we’re a really good team,” Peterson said. “We’re excited to get another chance (against Valley Center).”
While Brown accounts for nearly 48 percent of Valley Center’s scoring, Unrau said the Hornets’ chances of advancing this postseason may not rest in Brown’s ability to take his scoring to another level.
Since defenses are likely going to shift their complete attention to Brown, Unrau thinks this is a chance for players such as Wyatt Lange, Joe Petrakis, Zach Williams, and Thayer Terwilliger.
“I think the game could come down to which supporting cast can step up because there are going to be opportunities,” Unrau said. “Both teams are going to try to limit what the star players are going to try to do, so it will come down to other guys taking advantage of opportunities because they will be there.”
Both teams know many are interested in the possible shootout between Brown and Berry, and they’re both pleased fans are interested in this game. They know the game will be won by more than one player’s scoring output.
“We’re not looking at this as a Tyler Brown vs. Ty Berry game,” Hill said. “We’re looking at this as a Newton High School vs. Valley Center High School game and I think it’s going to be a great game and a great atmosphere.”