Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic freshman point guard Noelle Mannen brings the ball into the frontcourt in the first half of the Valiants rout of Corbett on Tuesday.

A year ago, Corbett came into Valley Catholic’s gym, undaunted and downright defiant, and nearly took down the then-undefeated Valiants on their home turf.

This season, it was no contest.

Bashing the boards and creating customary chaos with its notorious fullcourt press and pressure defense, Valley ran its former Lewis and Clark foe off the floor, turning an early 7-6 deficit into a 31-12 halftime lead and eventual 61-27 triumph on Tuesday.

When Valley Catholic decided to flip the switch from off to on and toggled the Valiants’ defense and rebounding from dormant to dominant midway through the first quarter it essentially knocked the livelihood out of Corbett.

“We came out with a fire in the second half,” said senior post Bailey McDevitt. “That wasn’t us in the first half. That’s not how we play. We needed to come out and play better defense and have more desire on ‘D’, seek more steals and get more rebounds. I think we did a good job of coming back.”

Very few teams have the luxury of picking and choosing when to play hard, and while the Valiants are uberly talented, both Danielson and McDevitt agreed they don’t want their team to fall into such habits. But, with a seasoned rotation that goes eight deep and a conditioning level that rivals that of any program in the state, Valley was able to revive itself in the first quarter with a commanding 9-0 run to seize control for good. Mentally, McDevitt noted the Valiants were “a little out of focus” to start, but once the fog cleared and the 2014 3A state runner-ups circled in on the retooling Cardinals, the game was all but a wrap.

“We focused up at halftime and got a little more energy going on,” said junior post Molly Danielson. “We could’ve had a little more energy. Coming back from (the holiday) break I think we were a little low, but we definitely made good plays and started making better plays in the second half.”

Maddie Vinson’s offensive board and putback reclaimed a 7-6 Valley Catholic lead in the first quarter, then Noelle Mannen pickpocketed Corbett’s point guard, weaved her way into the frontcourt and coolly banked in a running, one-legged leaner off the glass. Two short Danielson jumpers, triggered by Valiant takeaways and true passes from Mannen’s mitts, gave Valley a 13-6 lead at the end of one.

Corbett tried to deploy a 2-3 zone designed to combat Valley’s triple tower frontline of McDevitt, Vinson and Danielson with the hope that guarding an area of the floor rather than a specific Valiant would mask its own lack of size. The initial design worked initially, as Valley had trouble knocking down outside shots. Corbett’s cardinal problem was Valley was patient enough to pound the ball inside to its bigs.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior forward Molly Danielson puts up a jumper in the second quarter of the Valiants commanding win verus Corbett at home on Tuesday.

The Valiant trio feasted on dimes from Mannen and Emily McLeod in the paint, and if the outside shots didn’t fall, Valley’s pivots were often in position to grab the errant misses and put them back in for buckets off the window.

“At halftime all our posts were like ‘This is not the way we’re supposed to be rebounding’,” said Danielson. “We picked it up and started crashing the boards like crazy. We started boxing out, and our seniors likes Emily McCloud started picking up the energy. They wanted to do something more.”

The Cardinals’ decision to zone Valley was in essence a double-edged sword. It enticed Valley to shoot from deep, but in reality left itself exposed to a shellacking on the offensive glass.

“We like to crash a lot because we’re way taller than a lot of teams,” said McDevitt. “With me, (Danielson) and (Maddie Vinson) starting now, we have three 6-foot girls in the lineup. We like to crash hard, and we all love to rebound. The other team doesn’t have a great chance to get rebounds because we’re all so tall.”

Plus, with Valley making shots and augmenting its field goal percentage as the game wore on, Corbett was forced to take the ball out of bounds, which allowed Valley to set up its vaunted fullcourt press and wreak havoc by running and jumping at Corbett to turn the game on its ear.

The medley of live ball turnovers flipping into transition chances and mashing on the backboards ensured there would be no Cinderella-style overthrow as there nearly was a year ago.

McDevitt said Valley hadn’t used its press since before its Salem Academy Holiday Tournament victory and was raring to pounce on the Cardinals with fierce defensive force and active hands in the full court.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior wing Kaylynn Bush brushes off a Corbett defender in the first quarter of the Valiants victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday.

“It just clicked for some reason,” said McDevitt with a smile. “I think that’s our bread-and-butter defense. We just automatically know what to do, what spots to be in, where to be.”

Davidson and McDevitt combined to score Valley’s first 10 points of the third, and McCloud tacked on five more to open up a sizable 46-19 advantage heading into the final stanza. Then, McCloud scored seven straight to start the fourth.

Valley has one final home preseason game against Marshfield before opening Cowapa League action at Tillamook.

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