AUGUSTA — The unbeaten Valley High boys’ basketball team hasn’t been tested often this season. The Cavaliers had just one regular-season win by fewer than 20 points.

But when challenged Saturday by Seacoast Christian in the Class D South final, Valley came up big.

Down by six points midway through the second quarter, the Cavaliers took the lead before the half, then held on for a 52-45 victory to advance to the state final for the second time in three years.

“They came out firing and I think we came out a little nervous,” said Cody Laweryson of Valley.

Laweryson scored 26 points, including six 3-pointers, and was presented the John Messina Award as the tournament’s most outstanding player.

Valley (20-0) will face Easton (19-2) in the state championship game next Saturday at Augusta.

“I think the guys, after the first two games, realized (Valley’s) beatable. They realized what they had to do to beat them. We had our chances but we gave it up at the end,” Seacoast Christian Coach Matt Cardinal said.

This game was much different than their regular-season matchups, won by Valley by 32 and 16 points.

“The last time we played them was six weeks ago and in the world of basketball, that’s an eternity,” Valley Coach Luke Hartwell said. “I thought the guys really responded. We didn’t have our best game and give credit to (Seacoast). They played great.”

Caleb La Croix scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first half for the Guardians (14-7), who took the game to the Cavs early. A pair of Sky Archer free throws gave Seacoast Christian a 20-14 lead with five minutes to play in the half.

“We talked in scouting reports how La Croix likes to leak out in transition. He’s very good at it,” Hartwell said. “The other thing is the Archer brothers (Jet and Sky) really stepped up big time as well. (Tim) Yeaton is very tough in the post. I thought they put more effort into it than we did in the first half.”

Valley closed the half with a 10-0 run. Laweryson made a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left to give the Cavs the lead for good, 22-20. Collin Miller’s putback layup at the buzzer gave Valley a 24-20 lead. Valley’s pressure defense was a key factor in the run, with Austin Cates cutting Seacoast’s lead to 20-19 on a layup after his own backcourt steal.

“We needed something, a big shot. We needed a couple baskets to get ourselves ahead and carry it over to the second half,” Laweryson said.

Added Hartwell: “We hit key free throws when we had to, and Laweryson stepped up big time. We had three or four guys sick today and guys didn’t make excuses, played through it, and now they’ve got a couple days to rest and get ready for a good Easton team.”

Seacoast Christian’s defensive plan was to pack the paint with a 2-3 zone, forcing the Cavs to the perimeter. It worked for a while, with just Laweryson making outside shots.

“Cody, no matter what, is going to get his points. So you’re just hoping nobody else steps up and makes more than 10, 15 points,” Cardinal said. “They only had one other guy in double figures, so I think we did our job. We didn’t do our job on offense.”

In the second half, Valley worked the ball inside more and Miller scored nine of his 14 points. The Cavs led by nine points in the third quarter, only to see the Guardians trim the lead to 30-29. Laweryson hit a baseline fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give Valley a 37-31 lead going to the fourth quarter. Vallen then made 10 free throws in the fourth.

Laweryson finished with 10 rebounds and three blocks, and Miller added seven boards.

Sky Archer scored 12 points for Seacoast. Yeaton had eight points and 18 rebounds.