When No. 1 West Valley and fourth-seeded U-Prep tipoff at 6 p.m. Saturday in the CIF NorCal Division V semifinals, it’ll mark the fourth meeting of the season for the two Northern Athletic League foes.
The Eagles own the season series 3-0 and look to not only sweep the Panthers, but move to the NorCal finals against either either No. 2 Branson or No. 3 Monte Vista Christian. A West Valley win would mean the North State would host the game for a berth in the state finals.
Playoff coverage presented by Redding Rancheria.
Jan. 17: West Valley 44, U-Prep 31
Feb. 6: West Valley 36, U-Prep 23
Feb. 29: West Valley 29, U-Prep 26
They said it
“We’re two games away from playing in a really big game and we understand that’s a really long, long, long ways away, but to be two games away with the team we have and the things we’ve gone through, the adversity we’ve faced and continue to face, tonight and moving forward I’m incredibly excited for the kids.” ~ U-Prep coach Steven Schuster
“It’s always tough to play a team multiple times in the same season, especially when it’s a good team like U-Prep. We know what they do and they know what we do. The key for both teams it to find ways to attack them like they haven’t seen before. It’s really exciting to have two good NAL teams playing each other this late in the state playoffs.” ~ West Valley coach Lenny Ehn
No. 1 West Valley
Sophomore Madalynn Bassett took the Northern Athletic League by storm this season, leading the Eagles with 11.1 points per game as West Valley went 25-8 overall and 10-0 in the NAL.
Bassett has a smooth jumper and can hit from range. She’s dropped 3-pointers in all but four of the Eagles’ games this season. She averages a team-high 11.8 points per night and also has the game to take opponents off the dribble and a knack for scoring the bucket.
Senior Maddie Steele and junior Jasee Heacock provide 14 points of offense for the Eagles nightly.
Steele is great in the open court and can get the basket and finish through contact. She brings 6.5 points per night along with 3.8 rebounds and assists, along with 2.6 steals per game.
Heacock is scrappy on defense with a great all-around game, compiling stats across the board. She’s second on the team in scoring with 7.5 per game to go with 4.6 boards and 2.5 steals and assists.
The Eagles have a great cast including junior Hannah Wayne, sophomore Lexi Proscher and seniors Rose Matthews and Faith Cramer.
Wayne does a lot of everything: guarding the paint, playing stout defense as well as an occassional offensive outburst.
Proscher leads the team in rebounds with 6.6 per outing and her length aids her post scoring chances.
Matthews prowls the lane on defense, providing an anchor for the Eagles’ defense and adding putbacks on the offensive glass.
Cramer, like Wayne, does a little of everything and the senior brings leadership to the team.
No. 4 U-Prep
With Jordan McCoy out for the year, Kaleia Mizuta becomes the focal point of the Panthers offensive attack. She had a pure stroke, can hit from range and handles the point duties flawlessly. The junior averages 10.1 points per game and 2.5 boards, and played all 32 minutes in the quarterfinals win against unrelenting defensive pressure from Calaveras. Out for a time with an injury, Mizuta had drained 42 shots from distance.
In addition to the aforementioned McCoy, Steven Schuster has two more sophomore standouts in Ashlee Kraft and Melanie Lindsey.
Kraft averages 5.1 points per night, but a lot of what the 5-7 scrapper does for U-Prep doesn’t immediately jump out in the stat sheet. She grinds down low, grabbing boards and 50/50 balls with a calm authority.
Lindsey, meanwhile, has a sharpshooter’s mentality and the game to pull it off. Averaging 10.6 per night, she leads the team in made field goals, made three throws and made 3-pointers.
In addition to Mizuta, Kraft and Lindsey, the Panthers have a mix of youth and experience.
Senior Emily Kaney have moved into a starting role and gives the Panthers a calming influence in addition to clutch shots from time to time.
Junior Kylie Hokanson has the ability for great offensive outbursts, averaging 6.4 points per night. She’s become Mizuta’s front court partner, minus McCoy, and has a knack for finding open shooters.
Freshman Kaitlin Cabral has come up big in the past few games, scoring 10 in the quarterfinal win over Calaveras. A natural athlete, Cabral isn’t afraid of contact or the moment.
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