ANKENY, Ia. — Quinton Curry has a bone to pick with his parents. He’d prefer to not wear the bulky black brace on his right knee, but he knows just how expensive it is — and that mom and dad picked up the tab.
“That’s a big debate,” Curry said and smiled. “My parents probably won’t let me take it off. This brace wasn’t exactly cheap, so they’ll probably want me to wear it the next few weeks. Sometimes it feels like it’s falling down, but it’s really just me being uncomfortable.”
Despite having the brace on one of the team’s most accomplished players, Valley boys’ basketball beat Ankeny, 62-57, on Friday night at Ankeny High School. The fifth-ranked Tigers, now winners of six straight games, are 15-4 overall heading into next week’s final two regular-season games.
The game was also just Curry’s second of the 2016-17 season. The senior made his debut on Tuesday, when Valley muscled past Urbandale. He contributed five points and five boards off the bench in a 67-57 victory.
Curry was in a similar role on Friday night. The 6-foot-6 forward came off the bench after three minutes had passed. The Valley fans in attendance greeted him with a smattering of claps and cheers. He got a louder rendition when he dunked in transition a few minutes later.
“Just having him out there really helps us,” Valley coach B.J. Windhorst said. “He’s got great energy. He’s a leader. He’s been one of the best players for the last few years, so it’s a real big confidence thing to get him back and have our guys see him be back.
“He’s starting to trust his leg a little more. He’s not going to be 100 percent for a couple more months, but him at 80 percent is better than a lot of guys at 100. It’s nice to have him back.”
For Curry, it simply felt good to be back playing again. He helped lead Valley to a 23-3 record and the Class 4A state championship last season. He was dubbed the tournament’s most valuable player after totaling 42 points on 17 of 20 shooting over all three games at Wells Fargo Arena.
Then, in late July, Curry tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, followed by surgery a week later in early August. In the months that followed, he did a lot of sitting, rehabbing and, more than anything, waiting.
“Just knowing that I was coming back as a leader, and having to watch this team grow up without me was pretty hard,” Curry said. “Having to sit out was tough, knowing I couldn’t be out there. I helped them by coaching, which was the most beneficial part of the time I was out.”
Without Curry, Valley continued its winning ways, amassing a 13-4 record and shooting 50 percent from the floor entering this week. Only Austin Hinkle averaged more than 10 points per game, but another three players averaged at least nine.
The depth reared its head again Friday. Charley Crowley led the way with 16 points while Reese Skinner drained four triples en route to 14 more. Nate Dennis rang up his usual nine while Hinkle matched Curry with seven.
“This is a good team, with or without me,” Curry said. “I’m really proud of these guys. I was a little nervous when I got hurt. I didn’t know how they were going to respond or handle the season since we didn’t have a lot of experience coming back.
“But they’ve made me proud as the veteran on the team. These young guys are getting better, and we haven’t played our best basketball yet.”
Curry is still working his way into game shape — he only practiced for two weeks prior to Tuesday — but said he doesn’t feel the need to shake up anything Valley’s done to this point in the season. He simply wants to come in and add to what’s already been built over the course of the season.
“I don’t need to come in and try to be an all-star,” Curry said. “I just need to do whatever I can. That’s rebounding, assists, maybe scoring, or playing defense. Energy. Doing whatever I need to do or whatever coach needs me to do so we can get to where we want to go.”
After games against Mason City and Des Moines East next week, the Tigers will get a week to prep for their district semifinal against either Ankeny Centennial or Indianola. Des Moines Hoover is the likely opponent should they advance to the finals. A win there would send Valley to state.
Curry has zero doubt his team can get there — and that he can help them along the way. He might have to wear the brace the entire time, but as long as he’s playing, he won’t have a care in the world.
Valley, W.D.M. (62) — Hinkle 7, Skinner 14, Dennis 9, Crowley 16, Curry 7, Frey 5, Brinkmeyer 4. Also played — Brown, Samples. Totals: 21-55, 9-14.
Ankeny (57) — Maschoff 8, Lyon 20, Hawkins 3, Otten 8, Smith 3, Carlson 15. Also played — Riordan, Ferree. Totals: 21-40, 7-12.
Valley…18 10 15 19 — 62
Ankeny…17 16 12 12 — 57
3-pointers — Valley 9 (Skinner 4, Dennis 3, Hinkle 1, Frey 1), Ankeny 8 (Carlson 3, Maschoff 2, Lyon 2, Otten 1). Fouls — Ankeny 17, Valley 14. Technical Fouls — None. Fouled Out — Maschoff.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.