Source: Ben Spicer - Daily TimesValley HC Mark Merritt talks about the 55-34 win over Northwest.
Thursday night was big for the Valley Lady Indians, as the girls basketball team won their first game of the season at Northwest 55-34.
Led by a strong shooting performance and a solid defensive effort, Valley jumped out to an early lead and was able to cruise to victory in a contest of two SOC II teams.
“We hit a lot of open shots tonight,” Indians head coach Mark Merritt said. “We’ve been shooting 23 percent as a team, but we actually shot 39 percent overall [tonight].”
Valley sophomore Bre Call continued what has been a stellar campaign so far with 24 points and seven rebounds in the outing. Call’s jumper was on display throughout the game, something her coach has been encouraging her on of late.
“We’ve been talking to her all year, she’s turned down a lot of open shots,” Merritt said. “She’s the one that has to score for us, so we just told her to keep shooting.”
Call started things off on the right foot for her Indians, scoring 11 points in the opening quarter.
A hot start for Valley was just what the doctor ordered in a matchup that pitted two very young clubs against one another.
“It was very important,” Merritt said. “You come to Northwest, and these girls are in the same shape we’re in. We were winless, and I knew they would be fired up, so we had to be fired up too.”
The Indians led after one, 16-8. A big key in the quarter was a potent full court press that gave Northwest some trouble.
“We knew we had some young players in there, and that’s what we suffer from, from other teams that do that,” Merritt said. “I guess if we’re going to learn how to run it, we’ll know how to go against it.”
On offense for the Mohawks, Northwest was struggling to give themselves scoring chances.
“We’re not creating,” Mohawks head coach Dave Frantz said. “We’re letting the defense dictate what we do and take us out of the offense, because my guards right now are not being aggressive enough to come up.”
Northwest has been starting freshman Haidyn Wamsley at point guard. Wamsley has endured some growing pains in the young season, but Frantz has full confidence that she will be a special player for the Mohawks.
“She’s making freshman mistakes, but to me I still think she’s going to be one of the better players in the future in this area,” Frantz said. “I’m going to live with her and die with her right now, I have a lot of confidence in her.”
The next two quarters would be rough for Northwest, as the Mohawks struggled to manufacture points.
Junior Sydnie Jenkins hit a jumper with 6:47 remaining before halftime for Northwest to bring the score to 20-11. From there, Valley would create separation with a 10-1 run sparked by scores from several different players.
First, Hannah Conley scored a layup on an offensive rebound. Then, senior Maddie Wright hit a jumper in the corner, causing Frantz to call for a timeout trailing 24-12 with 5:07 remaining.
Out of the timeout, the Indians continued their run with consecutive baskets from Wright. Call concluded the run with another score, and Valley was out in front 30-12 with 2:23 in the second after the nice drive and finish from Call.
The Mohawks would get several scores to cut the lead, but still trailed 30-15 at the break.
“The big word I used this week is consistency, and we’re still lacking it,” Frantz said. “I think that’s with youth, we’ll have a good time down the court and then a bad one. We are just not playing consistently fully through.”
In the third quarter, the Indians outscored Northwest 16-3.
Valerie Eury scored all three points for the Mohawks, knocking down a free throw and a jump shot in the third.
For Valley, it was a steady dose of Call once more, as she scored nine in the quarter.
The Indians ended the third with a layup at the buzzer from Brooklyn Buckle off a steal, and led 46-18 through three.
With one quarter to go, Northwest was down big but not out. The Mohawks weren’t surrendering without a fight in the final period.
“The one thing I’ll say about these girls is they won’t quit, and we have yet to have a bad practice this year,” Frantz said. “I’ve never coached a team of quitters, I told them this wouldn’t be my first one and I don’t think they are. They’re great kids, we’ve just got a lot of work we need to do.”
After Buckle hit a three to start things off for Valley, Northwest went on a 8-0 run over nearly a three minute span with three field goals from Abby Baer and another from Jenkins.
Baer would finish with a team-high 12 points, and Jenkins added eight for the Mohawks on the night.
The Indians got a score from Conley to end the run, and another score on the next possession as time wound down.
Conley totaled nine points for Valley.
Northwest put up 18 points in the fourth, but the deficit was just too large to overcome as the Mohawks fell 55-34.
“Coach Merritt does a great job like always. He’s a fierce competitor, and does a really nice job,” Frantz said. “Valley girls outplayed us tonight. They outhustled us, and they outplayed us overall.”
Heading in to their next game on Monday against Wheelersburg, Merritt is hoping his team can build some momentum.
“I’d just like to continue how we played tonight and hit some shots,” Merritt said. “It’s hard to say you want to beat the ‘Burg, but the only way you’re going to do that is to hit some shots and take care of the ball.”
For Frantz and Northwest, a date with Oak Hill looms on the horizon on Monday. The head coach is hoping his Mohawks have learned some lessons and can get a win against the Oaks.
“We’re young, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Frantz said. “We’re six or seven games in now, it’s time to grow up.”
“I told the girls, we’ve got to keep working. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we can’t accept losing. There’s things I need to work on myself. This is a team thing, I’m not pushing this on the girls, it’s me too and there are things I’m going to work on.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer