West Valley Preps
Neither coach of a 6A girls basketball title contender was particularly thrilled with the play of their teams Thursday night.
At least in Chandler Hamilton coach Trevor Neider’s case, he could leave Surprise with a sense of relief. His Huskies made enough plays down the stretch to knock off two-time defending state champion Valley Vista.
No. 2 ranked Hamilton (15-4, 10-0 regular season) scored the final four points to hold off No. 5 Valley Vista (14-3, 7-1) in a disjointed, turnover-filled game with both teams missing their main post presence.
“We didn’t take advantage as well as we should have and they did some nice things and executed well,” Neider said. “We have a lot of streaks and ups and downs, And when we get that hot run we have to capitalize.”
The Huskies were without sophomore center Raegan Farrington while the Monsoon – suddenly – had to make do with a much bigger void in the middle.
Sophomore Marisa Davis sat out the showdown after having a tooth extracted earlier Thursday. Valley Vista’s other star, freshman guard Jennah Isai, returned from injury Tuesday but was not back at her best.
Another freshman, forward Saniyah Neverson, filled in admirably in the post with nine points and 13 rebounds.
But once Isai sat with three fouls in the second quarter, the home team’s seven-point lead evaporated. Hamilton gave Neverson and guards Alanis Delgado, Serrena Gonzales and Sophie Martinez, fits with its full-court pressure defense.
The turnovers provided the Huskies with a bit of an offensive spark and a 19-17 lead at the break.
“That’s something we put a lot of time into. We tried to play a little faster and we’ve got some guards. When Jennah got in a bit of foul trouble, that made a difference too,” Neider said.
At Valley Vista, the names have changed but the standards remain. Four senior starters graduated and three now play NCAA Division I basketball.
Yet the Monsoon started 11-0 with only one senior – forward Kena Kilpatrick. And coach Rachel Matakas did not put much stock in Davis absence or her team’s youth as factors in the loss.
“(They were) undisciplined, uncoachable – not listening – and not playing together,” Matakas said. “They know better. They’ve got to figure it out.”
That played into Valley Vista’s two biggest problems Thursday, an inability to break the press consistently and a lack of rotations on the Huskies’ drives to the basket.
Delgado led the Monsoon with 13 points, on the strength of three three-pointers. In less minutes than normal Isai scored one basket, though it led to a three-point play that tied the game at 34 in the final two minutes.
Delgado scored for a brief lead. But Hamilton senior guard Raelin Denning countered with her own three-point play to put the Huskies up 37-36.
Isai hit both free throws to regain the lead with 55.8 seconds left. Sophomore point guard Graciela Roybal drove and dished to sophomore forward Samara Curry for the go-ahead layup 14 seconds later.
Fittingly Denning, who led all scorers with 14 points, closed things out by hitting two at the foul line.
“Raelin’s a four-year varsity player and we expect that from her. She’s a quiet leader and when she makes a play, everyone gets fired up. Tonight, she got some confidence and just rolled with it,” Neider said.