JACKSON — Karsyn Conaway early, Bre Call late, and Kaity Howard throughout 32 minutes.
That’s the recipe Valley used to knock off Westfall by a 55-43 final Wednesday night in a Division III sectional semifinal at Jackson High School.
A win is a win. But Wednesday’s win came with its fair share of takeaways. While the No. 10 seeded Indians (9-13) kept their season alive against a higher-seeded Westfall team, they also made mistakes, got away from their original strategy and committed 20 turnovers.
But early on, that wasn’t the case.
Behind hot shooting from Conaway, Valley sprinted out to a 14-5 lead. By the end of the first quarter, Conaway had 11 points and the Indians had a 23-8 advantage.
“The biggest takeaway is that we’re playing better,” Valley coach Mark Merritt said. “In the first quarter, our strategy was to shoot the basketball. If we hit shots, they’d come out and guard us and that would open up the passing lanes under the basket. For the first quarter and half, we did that really well.”
That 15-point edge held strong throughout the rest of the first half as the Indians held a 31-16 lead at the break. But Merritt’s concern was that his team didn’t build upon the early success.
“Karsyn hit some shots, Bre hit some shots and [Westfall] had to come out,” he said. “We dribble penetrated, made some passes and got a 15-point lead. But that’s when we stopped doing what got us there. It’s a win but it feels more like we lost two and a half quarters. But our girls are resilient, they’ll come back. They’re a tough-skinned bunch.”
The bottom line is that Valley’s season lives to see another day. One reason for that is the play of seniors Kaity Howard, Bailee Day and Chalee Hettinger under the basket. That trio combined for 20 points and 24 rebounds while giving Valley a plethora of second chances to score.
“Those are my seniors,” Merritt said. “I really thought their effort was great tonight. Bailee got in foul trouble early but while she was in there, she did a nice job getting some open shots. Kaity did a tremendous job on the boards, Chalee did a great job for us … but again, we fell apart in the second half. Westfall is a good team but a lot of our problems were self-induced.”
Call led the Indians with 17 points and six assists as Conaway finished with 13 points. Howard added her 12 points and eight rebounds to the mix while Hettinger ended with five points while Brooklyn Buckle had four. Both Hettinger and Buckle had a team-high nine rebounds.
Dudgeon led the Mustangs with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Mahaley Farmer added nine points and six rebounds. Marissa Mullins also chipped in for Westfall, scoring six points.
What’s on tap
The Indians advance to face Fairland, a 52-13 winner over Zane Trace on Wednesday, in a Division III sectional final at 2:45 p.m., Saturday at Jackson.
“We got a tough opponent in Fairland,” said. “Their pressure is going to be immense. We’re going to have to handle that. With the pressure that [Westfall] was giving us tonight and we were throwing the ball away … we’re going to have to work on that.”
Valley: 23-8-15-9 — 55
Westfall: 8-8-12-15 — 43
Valley: 22-60 FG, 9-15 FT, 3-15 3pt. (Conaway 3), 36 rebounds (Buckle 9), 20 turnovers, 13 assists (Call 6). Scoring: Call 17, Conaway 13, Howard 12, Buckle 6, Hettinger 5, Day 2.
Westfall: 12-58 FG, 17-29 FT, 2-16 3pt. (Mullins 2), 37 rebounds (Dudgeon 12), 21 turnovers, 4 assists (Henry 4). Scoring: Dudgeon 21, Farmer 9, Mullins 6, Patete 3, Kitchen 2, Henry 2.