What Lookout Valley did Thursday at the start of the second half in its high school basketball game at Sale Creek made what it did at the end relevant.
The Yellow Jackets quickly expanded the slimmest possible halftime lead and protected the new margin down the stretch for a 47-41 victory over the host Panthers.
Lookout Valley (21-5, 10-1) clinched at least a tie for the District 6-A regular-season title with a home game remaining tonight against Richard Hardy. The Jackets did earn the top seeding for the district tournament.
A first half in which no lead was greater than four points ended with Lookout Valley on top 23-22. Then for the first three minutes of the third quarter the Jackets picked up defensively full-court and created multiple turnovers. The beneficiary was William Long, who scored seven consecutive points.
"That little press a couple of times caused us to turn the ball over," Sale Creek coach David Helton said. "They got a couple of easy baskets that led to a four-point lead, a six-point lead, and that was all they needed."
The lead got as high as 10 points after Delaney Heathington scored in the lane with 3:33 remaining, but Heathington making the front end of a bonus situation with 24.2 seconds left was the only other point Lookout Valley scored.
"We were throwing it around and just giving them some turnovers they really didn't force," Lookout Valley coach Joe Galloway said. "But we played excellent defense down the stretch. They got some shots, but they were tough shots. And we didn't give up second shots."
Sale Creek (13-9, 8-4) made three of four free throws in the last 2:48 but was limited to one field goal after Brandon Godwin scored with 4:34 to play.
"We struggled offensively, not getting a good look late in the game," Helton said. "They do a good job in their matchup zone. They come out on the shooters, and they double in the post. They're quick enough to do that."
Helton said it was tournament-type basketball, which is what his team needed to experience. Two fouls were all that were called on each team in the first half, and the only bonus reached was by the Jackets, and not until inside the final minute.
"It was a pretty physical game," Galloway said. "Both teams played hard."
Heathington topped Lookout Valley with 18 points. Long contributed 15.
Godwin's 20 points led the Panthers.