Valley battles back from two deficits, loses late in fourth

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic sophomore point guard Noelle Mannen fights for an offensive rebound in the first quarter of the Valiants 48-46 loss to Seaside.

With just two games to go in the regular season there still remains a great deal of untapped potential on the Valley Catholic girls basketball team.

For all its built-up goodwill Valley's ceiling hasn't been scraped. The Valiants have lost two games by less than three points including Friday's 48-46 setback to Seaside at Valley Catholic High School.

Valley sits at 17-5 overall with a 6-2 record in the Cowapa League, good enough for second place in conference. Seaside moved to 15-8 overall with a 5-3 Cowapa League mark. Valley hosts league-leading Banks on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.

Senior forward Jessi Beyer said the mood in the Valley locker room was expectedly “somber” after the game. However, the Valiants vouched for their heart and grit against the Seagulls, digging themselves out of two big deficits and playing doggedly defensively and on the boards in the face of a slew of snakebit missed shots.

“I'm so proud of how far this team has come,” said Beyer, who had 10 points. “From our first game to where we are now the cohesiveness, the skill and aggression have all improved. We made a lot of good chances for ourselves and even though we missed I was really proud of our effort. We had a lot of putbacks, a lot of offensive rebounds and that put us on the free throw line.”

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic freshman guard Callie Kawaguchi leans back for a fadeaway jumper over two Seaside defenders during the Valiants  48-46 defeat.

Down 46-39 and looking left for dead after Seaside went on an impressive 14-2 run from the halfway point of the third to 5 minute 18-second mark in the fourth, Valley summoned an internal strength and climbed back into the contest with an 8-0 run that was punctuated by a huge game-tying three from the top of the key by Noelle Mannen. The sophomore point guard's equalizer was created by a patient offensive possession where all five of the Valiants touched the basketball before Addie Flemmer drove, drew an extra Seagull and swung it to Mannen who canned the tying three with 1:10 remaining and evened the game 46-46.

“Nobody quit even when we were down,” said Mannen, who scored eight points and had five assists. “Ups and downs are part of basketball. I thought everybody's attitude was really great. Everyone kept up the fight. We were disappointed at the end of the game, but we have to look forward to the next one and win it.”

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior forward Joanna Duyck hoists a mid-range jumper in the first quarter of the Valiants loss ot Seaside.

Yet, on the next trip down following Mannen's tying shot, Seaside whittled the clock for a good 45 seconds and sprung Jesse Trott loose on a backdoor cut to go up 48-46 with 25 seconds left. Valley got a golden chance to tie the game on an offensive putback but put a bit too much mustard on the rebound attempt as clock struck zero and snapped Valley's four-game win streak.

“We might have got a little bit panicked,” said Beyer. “We saw the time and knew we needed to get a shot up, we just didn't get the right shot up necessarily. We had a good plan, we just needed to pull it off calmly.”

By their own admission the Valiants, for having a relatively strong standing in Cowapa haven't played their best basketball yet, which is a good thing. If the Class 4A playoffs started today, the No. 9 Valiants would have a first round bye and possibly a home second round playoff game.

Even with the playoffs looming sooner than later, brighter days seems to lie ahead for this Valiant group that finished fourth at the 2015 state tournament.

“We have the strongest team bond that I've ever been a part of,” said Valley Catholic senior post Joanna Duyck, who had four points off the bench. “Together we just find that energy and once we do there is no stopping us. In different spurts we've had energy and that's when we go on runs. It's just a matter of having that energy for the whole game.”

Down 15-7 at the end of one Valley outscored Seaside 25-10 in the second quarter thanks to a portfolio-worthy performance from Molly Danielson, who scored 10 second quarter points and snared six rebounds-three of them on the offensive glass. The all-league post had a handy helper in Beyer, who buried back-to-back three-pointers off passes from Mannen in a key one-minute span late in the second.

“I was really proud of our fight,” said Beyer. “It was funny because normally we're dead in the second quarters, but this time we really rallied around our defense, put the game on our shoulders, stayed calm and collected and got back in the game.”

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic sophomore forward Petra Flemmer fights off a Seaside defender on the way to the basket.

Trailing 20-17 in the second period Danielson missed in traffic but rebounded her own miss and threw up back and in off the glass, then Valley's incessant fullcourt press forced consecutive coughups that fed into fast break baskets from Rachel Justice and Duyck.

“It wore Seaside out by the end of the first half,” said Mannen. “In the second half we weren't really able to find that, but we're hoping to put together against Banks on Tuesday.”

Both roaring retorts were bold and assured, but it's the peaks and valleys that Valley wishes to level.

“Our biggest issue all season has been consistency,” said Mannen. “I think tonight was a testament to that. It shows promise and potential to what we can do, though. We know we can stick with these teams if we play the best that we can.”

Pinnacles of sterling play would be welcomed for sure, yet the Valiants could do without the lows and lulls such as the spun out scoring droughts and defensive letdowns Valley suffered through against the Seagulls. Valley led 37-28 in the third quarter, but didn't score for the final five minutes of the period.

“It's realizing how much potential we have and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together,” said Duyck. “We have everything we need to succeed. We just need to find a way to incorporate it for 32 minutes. Every possession, every shift has to be 100 percent all the time.”

Turning those close losses into wins and smoothing out the kinks comes back to team connectivity, Beyer said.

“If we one person is like 'I have to score' and they take it upon themselves, they're going to run into five people and that's not going to work” said Beyer. “If they use the team, the coaches and the energy from the bench and the fans, that's what is going to put us on the winning side.”

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