Valley’s girls basketball team used an aggressive full-court press to win 19 of its first 24 games this season.
On Monday, the Vikings suddenly abandoned the press.
And couldn’t have been happier with the result.
Concentrating on a swarming half-court defense, the Vikings (20-5, 11-1 Northeast) forced 35 turnovers and moved into a tie for first place in the Northeast League, knocking off visiting Canyon Springs, 56-45.
“I knew that in the half-court, we could give them trouble. We have a lot of quickness,” Valley coach Roger Hansen said. “My kids played awesome. I couldn’t have asked for more. We said we would win it as a team and we would win it on defense.”
The Vikings and Pioneers (12-7, 11-1) both have one loss in league play. Because it won the second game between the teams, Valley would win the tiebreaker for the league’s No. 1 seed for the Sunrise Region playoffs should both teams win their two remaining games. The Vikings haven’t been the Northeast’s top seed since 2005.
Valley put itself in the driver’s seat by never letting Canyon Springs get into offensive rhythm, thanks in large part to 5-foot-6-inch guard Brianna Johnson, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals.
“She has a motor that is unreal,” Hansen said.
The Pioneers, who boast one of the league’s top posts in Kenosha Wright and arguably the best freshman in the Sunrise Region in guard Cherise Beynon, began the game with eight missed shots and seven turnovers.
Valley even rebounded well despite giving up almost four inches per player in the paint. The Vikings got in position quickly, boxed out and were more aggressive than the Pioneers.
It really paid off on the offensive end, where 23 rebounds helped mask a poor shooting night.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of them,” Hansen said. “They worked their butts off.”
Valley went up 50-32 with 3:19 left, when Christina Davis hit her third 3-pointer of the second half, and coasted home.
Davis finished with 19 points and Shayna Porter scored 11 for Valley.
Beynon had 13 points and Wright scored 12 for Canyon Springs.