by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior post Gabe Taylor gets off a floater over a Westside Christian post in the third quarter of the Valiants' win over the Eagles on Tuesday. Taylor finished with 26 points despite sitting out the fourth.

The way Gabe Taylor sees it, if Valley Catholic keeps getting better like its presently is in a formidable preseason filled with state tournament contenders, the sky’s the limit for the loaded, experienced Valiants.

With the athletic 6-foot-8 hybrid forward taking the reins, Valley improved from its season-opening close call 56-54 win over Blanchet Catholic with a 64-44 drubbing of Westside Christian on Tuesday.

The contest was a slight reprieve from what’s a rigorous upcoming schedule that has the likes of Gladstone, La Salle, and Dayton on the horizon.

“We came out and executed well,” said Taylor. “We pushed the ball, and defensively I think we were on a better page than we were last week.

Taylor led the Valiants with 26 points, half of which came in the third quarter, but was quick to recognize the efforts of Jarrett Gray (15 points, 4 assists), Kazuma Lane (10 points), Tysen Prunty (4 points) and Drew VanderZanden (4 points).

“For me, it just shows how much better we can get as a team,” said Taylor. “I’m excited for that. We just have to keep getting better at the little things like running the floor, rebounding, playing good, solid defense. Because, people see the big things, but it’s the little things that make up the wins.”

Ahead 34-20 at halftime, the Valiants threw dirt on the Eagles with a passionate third quarter that featured Taylor’s continually improving arsenal of skills.

The University of Portland commit caught a pass from Gray in the open floor, stuffed the rock on an Eagle while getting hammered, and completed the old-fashioned, three-point play.

“We started the second half with more intensity,” said Gray. “We came out on defense and really played hard. We also slowed it down on offense, executed a little more and got open shots.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior post Alex Butz puts up a lay-up in the fourth quarter against Westside Christian.

Facing Westside’s 2-3 zone designed to mask its lack of size, Taylor accepted a pass in the short corner, took two power dribbles toward the cup and floated a teardrop through the net to go up 44-23 with 3:34 to go.

“We tried to work on spreading the floor and making good, solid passes,” said Taylor. “We were looking for open spots in the zone. We played really well tonight, and I’m just proud of our guys.”

Taylor finished off his night with another fastbreak flush off a lead pass from Gray, buried a triple from the right wing and tipped in a miss to put Valley ahead 53-26 with 39 seconds remaining in the third.

Lane’s three from the left wing amplified the advantage to 56-26 at the end of the third, and allowed head coach Joel Sobotka to solely play his young guys in the fourth.

“We showed parts where we really executed well and showed how much potential we have,” said Gray. “We have to string that together through every game during the whole year, and I think we can play well. I think we can get a lot better on the defensive side and the offensive side, if we just keep working hard in practice and listening to what coach says.”

VanderZanden said Valley started the game much better defensively than it did in its season opener against Blanchet.

The Valiants kept the momentum going into the second quarter, holding the Eagles to just seven points, and closed out quickly on Westside Christian’s defenders.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior wing Kazmua Lane hits a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter for the Valiants, who ran away from Westside Christian in the second half on Tuesday for the victory.

“The first game of the year, we weren’t ready right away,” said VanderZanden. “But, we stepped up our intensity in practice, and this game we knew we couldn’t let that first quarter slip away like that. It’s important to play hard from the very beginning.”

Valley, in turn, translated its stops into highlight-like scores on its end of the floor, with Taylor crushing two dunks over the Westside defense in the third quarter.

Defensively, the Valiants shuffled their feet to cut off the Eagles after one or two dribbles, and if the first man was beat off the bounce, another Valley player was there to help-and-fill on the weakside.

“We’re big on getting deflections,” said VanderZanden. “We keep a stat of that. We don’t want to see those passes go through, and I think we did a better job of that today. We always want to see how many we can get and how many lay-ups we can get down on the other end.”

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