The West Valley girls basketball team saw its Rose bloom on Saturday night.
Senior captain Rose Matthews scored a season-high 12 points, dropping six straight points in a crucial third-period stretch, as the No. 1 Eagles beat fourth-seeded U-Prep 47-27 in the CIF NorCal Division V regional semifinal.
The win earns West Valley the right to host No. 2 Branson (Ross) on Tuesday in the regional finals and a chance to play at 10 a.m. Friday in the state championship game.
All postseason coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
“Winning tonight puts us further than any team in West Valley history and it’s motivated us a lot to leave our footprint,” Matthews said. “As a senior, I think it would be cool to see my little sister to come in here and see our names on a banner. That keeps me going.”
The Eagles led 18-14 at half in an attempt to beat their Northern Athletic League rival for the fourth time this season. West Valley coach Lenny Ehn changed tactics in Round Four, going with a 2-2-1 zone press dropping into half-court zone defense the entire game rather than man in the first half and zone after intermission.
“We decided we wanted to attack from the outset tonight,” Ehn said. “We watched a lot of film and wanted to put a lot of pressure on them.”
The extra pressure and loss of a key ball handler in Jordan McCoy, who had shoulder surgery on Wednesday, forced U-Prep into 13 first-half turnovers.
Yet, the Panthers trailed by four at the break, but managed two free throws in a third period that would swing the game toward the host Eagles.
Ashlee Kraft, who led U-Prep with seven points, opened the half with the front end of two free throws before the Panthers went on a 4:33 scoring drought ended with a Kaitlin Cabral freebie.
And while U-Prep was struggling to score, the Eagles were using defense to create offense, taking advantage of defensive rebounds and limiting offensive possessions for their opponent.
Maddie Steele scored in transition off a Panther turnover three minutes into the third period. Madalynn Bassett converted an and-one after the zone press forced a half-court tie up and the possession arrow favored the Eagles.
Up 23-16, the Eagles saw Matthews take over the end of the quarter on the offensive side, while their defense forced turnovers of four straight U-Prep possessions before a desperation 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
Matthews, who scored four in the opening half, added eight more bridging the third and fourth periods.
“I think my team set me up for a lot of success,” Matthews said. “I was there to rebound and a lot passing lanes I was able to fill. I think once I started making shots, it brought me a lot of confidence to keep shooting.
She corralled her own miss in the paint off an inbounds play and found the bottom of the net on the putback. On the next trip, she was left wide open and canned an 18-footer from the left side and followed that with a drop-step bucket off a Jasee Heacock assist and the Eagles led 29-16 heading into the fourth.
“I was open and people are yelling for me to shoot,” Matthews said. “I thought ‘I’m open, I’m going to shoot’ and then I saw it go in and I thought ‘I’m going to keep shooting.’ ‘
She opened the final, period with another bucket in the paint before Bassett’s deuce gave West Valley a 33-17 edge with 6:40 left in the game.
“Rose is a great shooter, but she’s not a confident shooter. And she should be,” Ehn said. “She’s our captain, a senior and when she has games like this it makes us that much better.”
Matthews’ heat-check 3-pointer on the next Eagles possession rimmed in and out, but the Panthers failed to hit a field goal in the second half until Kaitlin Hoy’s 3-pointer with under a minute left. Save for the Hoy triple, U-Prep was 10-of-18 from the free throw line in the second half.
“It’s 18-14 at half in a style of game we wanted to play,” said U-Prep coach Steven Schuster. “We expected it to be low scoring with them.
“In the first half we did good enough to stay with them, but in the second half it just wore us down a little bit.”
Meanwhile, Ehn was savoring the win with one eye toward 25-9 Branson.
“I’ll start breaking down film to get ready for Tuesday like it’s the biggest game in the world because for us it is,” he said.
No. 4 U-Prep 27, No. 1 West Valley 4
U-Prep 7-7-2-11 – 27
West Valley 12-6-11-18 – 47
Panthers – Hokanson 3, Hoy 3, Cabral 4, Lindsey 4, M1zuta 6, Kraft 7.
Eagles – Steele 2, Moore 2, Wayne 4, Proscher 4, Heacock 7, Matthews 12, Bassett 16.
3-pointers – UP- 2: Mizuta, Lindsey; WV 1: Bassett.
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