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Molly Danielson scored a game-high 20 points before leaving the game with an injury as the Valiants won 57-53 Thursday to snap the Cougars' 10-game win streak to open the season.



JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Country Christian's Anna Farner (11) sets to take a jump shot over Valley Catholic's Molly Danielson during the first half of Thursday's non-conference girls' basketball game.Country Christian School’s girls’ basketball team ran into a bigger challenge than anticipated Thursday against Valley Catholic.

And the Cougars think that will be good for them in the long run.

Valley Catholic’s Matti Thurman scored all five of her points in the fourth quarter from the free-throw line, including that go-ahead free throw with 1:10 to play as the visiting Valiants of Beaverton pulled out a 57-53 victory over the previously undefeated Cougars of Molalla.

It wasn’t the outcome the Cougars (10-1) had hoped for, but at this stage of the season, a 57-53 loss to a team from the Class 4A Cowapa League beats a 56-2 rout over a team from their own Class 1A Casco League any day.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Country Christian coach Russell Halverson said. “I wanted to win it, but the reality is we’re building toward something different, and this game was a great one to be able to see some of the things that we need to address.

“I’m going to watch the film and I’m going to have a lot more to take away from this one. Right now, my general feeling is I’m proud of the way girls competed. I saw a lot of really good things.”

Valley Catholic John Innes also was pleased, considering the Valiants (11-3) played without sophomore starter Petra Flemmer and then lost senior post Molly Danielson to a nasty cut over her right eye while nursing a 43-40 lead in the fourth quarter.

“Our point guard (Callie Kawaguchi) had some foul trouble and, obviously, our star center went down, but I was so impressed with our other gals who stepped up,” Innes said. “That would have been an easy one to lose by 15.

“Unless I don’t understand what’s going on in 1A, that has got to be the best 1A team in the state by a long shot.”

Country Christian and Valley Catholic had played one another on a semi-regular base during the summer, but Thursday’s game marked only the second time that the Cougars and Valiants had faced off during the high school season and the first time since 2010.

The game had four lead changes and four ties. The largest lead for the Valiants was nine points, 14-5, midway through the first quarter, while the Cougars led by as many as five points, 40-35, heading into the fourth quarter.

Valley Catholic capitalized on three Cougars’ turnovers in the first minute of the fourth quarter and mounted an 8-0 run that gave the Valiants a 43-40 lead with just under seven minutes to play.

At the 6:40 mark of the fourth quarter, Danielson, the Valiants’ 5-foot-11 senior, collided with Country Christian’s Kennedy Nofziger while pursuing a loose ball. The two banged heads with Danielson taking the worst of it, splitting the skin near her right eyebrow on impact in addition to drawing a foul.

The game was delayed about 10 minutes as Valley Catholic’s trainer and staff attended to Danielson, who left the game having scored a game-high 20 points.

Trailing 53-45, Country Christian’s Courtney McGrath converted a three-point play, Ashley LaPointe hit a three-pointer, and LaPointe scored again on a runner in the lane that lifted the Cougars into a 53-53 tie with 1:17 to play.

Thurman, the 5-6 junior guard, then got fouled and made both free throws to put the Valiants back on top to stay.

After the Cougars missed three shots from the field and two free throws that would have tied the game, Thurman went back to the line and made two more free throws with 21 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

“All in all, I’m happy with the performance,” Halverson said. “Valley Catholic’s rotation is so deep, I was worried that we’d run out of legs. But the funny thing was that they were having to go to a half-court grind, because they couldn’t keep up with our transition.

“We did OK against their defense until a stretch of about two minutes at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth when we had a five-point lead and we just weren’t smart with it. But these are the game we want to play, because it’s the best way to prepare for the post-season.”

Innes, too, said the game was just what the Valiants needed in preparation for Tuesday’s league opener against Tillamook.

“We thought if we could come in and get a win, that would be good momentum for next week,” Innes said. “But then to face the adversity that we had and still overcome that, I think that probably did a little bit more for us, because we had some gals who haven’t been playing a lot lately step in and hit some big free throws and get some big rebounds.

“These last three games, we’ve learned a lot about who we are and who we aren’t, and that’s kind of what the preseason is for. Now, hopefully we can continue to build on the things that we do well and try and give Banks and Seaside a run for the league championship.”

Mollie Lewandowski finished with 12 points, LaPointe had nine, and Nofziger ded eight for the Cougars.

One the questions Halverson had going into the game that got answered was how his post players would respond to playing against a dominant center in Danielson.

“She is one of the best posts in 4A and I thought our girls did a great job,” Halverson said. “Mollie (Lewandowski), in particular, matched up with Danielson and, straight up, did a great job.

“Not only did she make Danielson work for everything she got, but she had her own answers. That’s was a battle. And then Meghan (McGrath) coming in and backing up Mollie did a great job, too.

“That was probably the thing that I walked away from this the most excited about.”

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