The motivation from West Valley’s suffocating defense comes from within.
“When don’t like when teams score against us, we take it to the heart and do whatever we can to stop them,” said Eagles’ junior Hannah Wayne. “That’s who we are – we’re a hard fighting team.”
Not only did West Valley channel its dominating defense-first mentality but the Eagles took it to a different level, shutting out the fifth-seeded U-Prep Panthers in the fourth quarter to pull out a 29-26 victory in the CIF Northern Section Division IV championship Saturday at Shasta College. All coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
Trailing 24-17 late in the third quarter, Wayne scored seven of the next eight points for the Eagles to ignite a momentum-swinging span that gave them the lead for good.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
Despite U-Prep not scoring during the final period, the Panthers trailed by three with less than 30 seconds left. Melanie Lindsey had a look at the top of the key for a potential game-tying 3-pointer but Madalynn Bassett got enough of a tip on it to change its trajectory.
Jasee Heacock rebounded the ball and was fouled with 1.2 seconds left to seal it and give the Eagles their first section title since 2014.
“Hannah Wayne is 100 percent energy all of the time,” said West Valley coach Lenny Ehn. “She gives us so many sparks. She gets the rebounds that could go either way, hustles in position is aggressive. Every game it seems like she’s the one that gives us the spark.”
Both teams learn their seeding when CIF releases the state playoff brackets Sunday.
West Valley (23-8) has held its opponents to 45 points or less in 14 straight games, including all three meetings against U-Prep. As good as its defense is, though, its offense struggles at times, which was evident in the first half when the Eagles mustered two points in a span of 7 minutes, 6 seconds.
In that time, U-Prep sophomore Ashlee Kraft put the Panthers in the lead as part of a 17-2 run to lead 19-10. Lindsey hit a pair of 3s in that stretch and Kraft, strong in rebounding at both ends of the floor and creating offense with Kaleia Mizuta on the bench in foul trouble, scored four straight points.
U-Prep’s three starting guards Jordan McCoy, Kylie Hokanson and Mizuta each had accumulated two fouls late in the second quarter and coach Steven Schuster went conservative to milk the clock the rest of the half to go into the break leading 19-13. But Mizuta picked up her third foul, hampering the Panthers with their hottest player limited.
“That was completely based on the foul situation,” Schuster said. “I put Kaleia’s third foul solely on me, I should have rode it out more and been OK with being up two or three.”
Lindsey hit a 3 midway through the third to stretch the Panther lead to nine. Maddie Steele answered with a layup and Wayne’s putback and layup made it a one possession game. U-Prep’ s Maya Sammut hit a baseline jumper in the final seconds of the third to enter the final period with a 26-21 advantage.
That would be the last time the Panthers had anything to smile about.
Wayne made a free throw early on, Heacock attacked for 2 on a second chance opportunity created by Rose Matthews’ offensive board, and Wayne stole the ball in the backcourt to tie it at 26 with 3:45 to go.
“We transition so well on defense and move our feet and work on not being stable,” Bassett said.
U-Prep had multiple good looks in an attempt to take the lead back. But twice the Panthers threw the ball out bounds on the perimeter, once before Matthews’ putback gave the Eagles a 28-26 lead with 2:00 left and another after her go-ahead bucket.
“I think we got excited a little bit,” Schuster said about not scoring in the fourth quarter. “I think we missed some good shots, shots we’ve been making the last 3 to 4 weeks. We turned it over a little bit and foul trouble hurt us.”
Lindsey and Bassett traded missed 3-pointers and Mizuta downtown shot from the right wing was long, allowing Matthews to grab the board. Wayne was fouled for a 1-and-1 with 21 seconds left. The Eagles’ junior made the first and West Valley’s defense held the rest of the way.
Wayne and Bassett each scored eight points to lead the Eagles in scoring.
Lindsey led U-Prep with 11 points while Kraft tallied eight points and 10 rebounds. With only one senior, the Panthers’ future to return to the section championship game looks promising, especially all starters coming back.
“We’re optimistic but teams like Willows and Gridley are good enough to be here too so you can’t show up with a roster and expect to get back,” Schuster said. “We’re going to be determined to get back and put the work in to get back. We’re good enough and I think we belong back here but it has to be done and not just said.”
#2 West Valley 29, #5 U-Prep 26
West Valley 7-6-8-8—29
U-Prep (20-11): Lindsey 11, Kraft 8, Cabral 3, McCoy 2, Sammut 2.
West Valley (23-8): Wayne 8, Bassett 8, Heacock 5, Steele 4, Matthews 2, Proscher 2.
3-pointers—U-Prep 3 (Lindsey 3); West Valley 2 (Bassett 2).
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