Spring Valley coach Billy Hemberger walked into his office at school Thursday morning and found a yellow note on his desk, with bright red writing.
The note read: “‘The heart of a champion isn’t a light switch that goes on and off when someone’s watching. It’s constant’ — Greg Plitt. I’m all in coach. I have your back and you have mine. Let’s win today coach.”
Hemberger has no clue which one of his Grizzlies left the note, but their mental toughness certainly shined in a 52-32 victory over Western in the Division I-A Southern Region semifinals at Desert Pines.
The defending Division I-A state champion Grizzlies (27-3) will face Faith Lutheran (21-7) for the region title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Desert Pines. Both teams advance to next week’s state tournament in Reno.
Spring Valley used a 20-point first quarter to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Essence Booker led all scorers with 18 points, and Alana Walker had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Grizzlies.
“Everyone really wanted to come out and blow this lead out for coach in the first quarter ’cause we always start out kind of slow and then pick it up,” Walker said. “It was one of those games where you have to stay focused and keep your motivation together and not let your teammates fall.”
Spring Valley opened the game on a 10-0 run, and extended its lead to 20-2 before Western’s Destiny Gonzalez scored the first period’s last five points.
Gonzalez, who finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, did her best to keep Western in the game, scoring nine of her points in the second half and helping the Warriors (17-12) get as close as 14 midway through the third quarter.
After seeing their lead cut to 37-23, the Grizzlies went on an 8-0 run, sparked by six points from Booker, to push their lead to 45-23 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Gonzalez scored the game’s next six points, but the momentum didn’t last.
“You look at the start of the game, and they obviously were focused and were all on the same page as to what we wanted to accomplish,” Hemberger said. “When we got that lead and started making some substitutions, we got away from our game plan a little bit. And they adjusted as well.
“That was an ugly win. It was perfection to start the game, and three quarters of ugly. But a win is a win in the playoffs and that’s all that matters.”
Faith Lutheran 72, Chaparral 56 — Madison Bocobo had 21 points, and Bryanna Neagle scored 20 as the Crusaders erased an early 13-11 deficit and downed the Cowboys in the other semifinal.
Jasmine Martin and Marcia Hawkins each had 12 points to lead Chaparral (18-12). Alexis Vanstory had 11 points, and Jade Hazelton scored 10 for the Cowboys.