TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic sophomore point guard Grace Mannen and the Valiants have started the season 4-0 in non-league action and hope to reach the Class 4A state tourney.

In her three years suiting up for the Valley Catholic girls basketball team, senior Molly Danielson has become accustomed to two things: winning and state tournament appearances.

The rebound-hungry post with a non-stop motor has been a big piece of three successful squads during her Valley tenure.

Danielson helped VC haul in a Class 3A state title in 2013, a runner-up finish in ‘14 and a fourth-place showing at the Valiants’ first 4A state tournament a year ago.

The co-captain knows what it takes for a team to be a title contender: the preparation, skill, know-how, in-season progression and chemistry a state tourney squad must have just to be in the state conversation.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic sophomore wing Petra Flemmer can play on the perimeter or in the post for the Valiants.

To this point in the season and looking ahead to an encouraging Cowapa League docket, Danielson said this year’s Valley crew, with its blend of speed and dexterity, could very well send her out with a fourth state tourney appearance in as many years.

“I love this team,” said Danielson. “I think we have all the tools to get (back to state). We’re starting to see where we are as a team. Everyone brings a lot of effort. The whole team is coming in focused and ready to go this year. We have some great players who are stepping up this year. Everyone is working really hard this year.”

“It’d be great to get back to state,” added Valley Catholic sophomore Petra Flemmer. “I think we have to get a little deeper into the season to set some serious goals, but ultimately, the goal is state. And we’re going to work as hard as we can to get there.”

Valley admittedly lost a lot of height from last year in Bailey McDevitt and Kaylynn Bush, both of whom graduated and moved on to the collegiate level after collecting all-state honors.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior post Molly Danielson has played on three state tournament teams including the one that placed fourth at the Class 4A level last year.

Yet, sophomore point guard Grace Mannen said the remaining Valiants have stepped into their new roles relatively well, as reflected by Valley’s fast 5-0 start in non-league action. Rather than fill the void with size, Valley’s smaller, quicker players have played “bigger” Mannen explained, with guards helping box out taller opponents and rebounding.

The extra emphasis on the defensive boards by no means equates to less run-and-gun as has been Valley’s forte under head coach John Innes.

With Mannen at the point and athletic wings like Flemmer and Kate Nguyen running the floor, the ball will still get up and down at a rapid rate.

“We definitely still want to push the tempo,” said Flemmer.

Flemmer and senior Jessi Beyer have moved inside to help Danielson in the post, and while the Valiants aren’t as big as they were last year, they’re fleet-footed and agile on the break.

Mannen was a marvel guiding Valley’s offense last season, often setting the table for Danielson and Flemmer with assists while supplying stellar on-ball defense at the front of Innes’ fullcourt press.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic's Matti Thurman is one of many talented Valiants coming off the bench this year.

And Mannen has help in guards Mady Moore, Olivia Langton, Rachel Justice and Callie Kawaguchi coming off the bench when the sophomore needs a breather.

Danielson has shown the ability to devour opposing posts with her appetite for offensive boards while also deftly working foes in the post with solid footwork and a sweet touch at the rim. The all-Cowapa League pick is Valley’s rock in the middle.

“I really like the way we play,” said Mannen. “I think that can work against any kind of team. I’m really excited to keep playing that way.”

Valley begins league play with a 7:30 p.m. home game against Tillamook on Jan. 19.

The Valiants are currently ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A power rankings. Valley beat Philomath 56-39 at home on Tuesday. They play Rainier and Portland Adventist Academy next week in non-league play.

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