by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic post Kim Duyck puts back an offensive rebound in the first quarter of the Valiants hard-fought win over Corbett on Tuesday.

The season-long goal of going undefeated in league play is still alive for the Valley Catholic girls’ basketball team.

But, boy, it wasn’t easy. Nor close to flawless.

The Valiants’ hardscrabble 48-40 win over a convinced Corbett team was grimy and gritty for four quarters — a battle of attrition and grinding that was evenly matched until the very end. The Cardinals tied the contest at 38-38 with 2:37 to go in the fourth, but Valley’s trumpeted fullcourt defense press-ganged Corbett into four turnovers in the game’s final minutes.

Valley’s Kaylynn Bush made a huge jumper that put her team up 41-38 with two minutes to go in the fourth. Lindsie LaBonte hit 3-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch, and Addie Flemmer sank 4-5 from the line in the last 43.2 seconds to ice Valley’s 14th victory in a row on Tuesday.

“We came out and battled,” said Bush. “Even though it wasn’t the win that we wanted, it was a win, which was good. The rest of the season is definitely going to be difficult. For the rest of the season, we’re going to see tough teams play us. It was important for us to continue to play good basketball.”

“I think it gives us some confidence,” added LaBonte. “If we are down, we know we can rally as a team. We came back, that’s what’s important. We worked really well together as a team and had confidence in each other. We trusted our passes, our shots, our defense. I think it all went well for us.”

For the first time in nearly two months, the defending 3A state champions actually looked mortal. The shots didn’t fall, the offense didn’t come easy, and the Cardinals had a measure of success breaking Valley’s 1-2-2 press while applying strong defense of their own. Finally, after going on a month-long rampage through the previously believed futile Lewis and Clark League, Valley was tested and tugged, poked and prodded by a country-strong Cardinal team that brought a backwoods toughness and a no-back-down mentality to the Valiant gym.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior post Bailey McDevitt kisses an offensive board off the glass for two versus Corbett.

“We knew they were going to fight,” said Bush. “But, we wanted it more in the end.”

In the first half, and most of the game for that matter, Valley was evidently affected by the five-day layoff caused by the winter storm that blanketed the Portland metro area. The Valiants got good looks, but their rhythm and flow was off when it came to finishing, specifically inside where Valley is usually money in the bank. Not having practice for five days, and coming into a game against a hungry Corbett team, did little to help Valley’s touch as it shot 4-32 from the floor and fell behind 21-16 at halftime.

“We were rusty,” said Bush. “That snow just ruined everything. We couldn’t really plow the snow and go shoot some hoops. But, we played hard and did our best. All we could do tonight was play our best.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior guard Addie Flemmer flies to the basket for a fastbreak bucket against Corbett.

Valley’s offense started to open up in the third when Bush hit a left-wing jumper, and Bailey McDevitt, Kim Duyck and Maddie Vinson converted lay-ups inside. LaBonte’s steal and lay-up with 4:12 to go in the third gave the Valiants a 26-23 lead.

Yet, Corbett kept clambering at the advantage with smart passing against the Valiants’ stringent defense and a fervent 2-3 zone that turned over Valley both in the half and full court. At the end for the third, Bush flew into the key after a Molly Davidson missed free throw, grabbed the board and threw it off the glass for two to go up 30-28. But, Corbett calmly went down the floor, controlled a loose ball and knocked down a 10-foot jumper to tie it 30-30 at the end of three.

It was nip-and-tuck for most of the fourth as well. Duyck scored on an up-and-under move, and Vinson banked in an offensive board to give Valley a 34-30 lead with 6:10 to go. However, Corbett hung tough and jumped a crosscourt pass for a game-tying hoop with 2:37 to go.

In the end, it was Valley’s fourth-quarter, crunch-time defense that forced a 10-second violation, a Corbett over-and-back and two steals that was the ultimate decider.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior guard Lindsie LaBonte swerves around a pair of Corbett defenders in the second quarter of the Valiants 48-40 win.

“Our press won that game for us,” said Bush. “We didn’t make great decisions on offense. We rushed shots and didn’t always play smart. But, we played hard on defense. That’s all you can ask for.”

Corbett came along at just the right time for the Valiants. With only two games remaining in the regular season, followed by a week off and then the postseason, the defending champs needed a challenge, something to stimulate the senses and make them sweat a little. Valley knows its not perfect and there are keys to adjust and tweak in the coming weeks. Being in a regular season dogfight with a surprisingly strong team wasn’t a bad thing in the least. Valley’s ramping up for a repeat run that won’t be easy, and Tuesday’s contest proved that.

“The games are only going to get harder from here on out,” said LaBonte. “Knowing that we can do it here gives us a little confidence going into the playoffs.”

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