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On top of the world


Valley Catholic beats St. Mary's to win its first-ever state crown

by: MILES VANCE - WE'RE NO. 1 - Valley Catholic's Chelsea Alsdorf hugs teammate Taylor Kinion, while teammate Lindsie LaBonte (left) high-fives Jack Severin (riding on Emily Gabourel's shoulders), and VC's Grace Mannen and Addie Flemmer also celebrate their team's win over St. Mary's.

COOS BAY — The first time was a disaster.

The second time, a disappointment.

But the third time, the third time was way beyond charming for the John Innes-coached Valley Catholic girls basketball team.

The Valiants, facing Medford’s St. Mary’s in the Class 3A state championship game on Saturday night at Marshfield High School, made their third trip to the state title game one for the memory books, rolling past the Crusaders 40-27 to win the first girls basketball championship in school history.

In its previous championship trips, the Valiants lost to Nyssa 59-39 in 2007, then dropped a 43-29 decision to Vale in last year’s title contest.

Saturday’s win capped the best season in Valley Catholic history, a year that included a second straight Lewis & Clark League crown, a 28-2 overall record, a No. 1 ranking, and now, finally, a state championship. Southern Cascade League champion St. Mary’s, the third-ranked team in the state, ended its season at 26-3. Joining Innes on the VC coaching staff were assistants Pat Thomas, Meg Coussens, Allison Gates and Emily Keagbine.

“I don’t really have words for it right now, but if I had to come up with something, I’d say we were on top of the world,” said Valley Catholic senior Chelsea Alsdorf, a second-team all-tournament pick who had two points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in the win. “We came out on top — that’s what we needed.”

“I’m just excited,” said VC sophomore Kaylynn Bush, who led all scorers with 16 points against St. Mary’s. “Winning for Chelsea and all the seniors like this, it’s the greatest thing ever.”

“It’s kind of surreal right now,” added Valiant senior Emily Gabourel, who was injured last year and did not play in the 2012 state title game. “We played so hard this entire year, and it’s just like ‘Yes!’ It feels so good.”

The Crusaders provided a unique test in the finale, running the floor relentlessly and shooting three-pointers with abandon, but Valley Catholic’s defense was up to the test throughout. Indeed, the Valiants forced 19 turnovers in the game and held the Crusaders to just 15 percent shooting from the field.

“We just tried to do what we normally do and it ended up working,” said junior Lindsie LaBonte, who had four points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win.

“We just kind of did our thing, played our game — that’s what got us here,” added sophomore post Bailey McDevitt, who finished with seven points, eight rebounds and two assists. “They’re fast, but we’re fast too. We know how to do it.”

Valley’s defense was on display right from the get-go Saturday, making the Crusaders start the game with six straight misses and two turnovers before they scored their first points. But the Valiants had their struggles too, turning the ball over 10 times in the opening quarter and leading just 4-2 when St. Mary’s got on the scoreboard 3 minutes and 56 seconds into the contest.

VC kept the defensive heat on and limited St. Mary’s to just that one basket — a backdoor cut by Samantha Weiland — in the quarter, and built its lead to 9-2 at the end of the quarter behind hoops from Bush and Molly Danielson.

Bush scored again early in the second quarter, connecting inside off a pass from LaBonte to make it 11-2, but the Crusaders got going after that. Over the next 5:06 after Bush’s hoop, St. Mary’s put together a 10-1 run that tied the game at 12-12.

Emily Alvarez got that stretch started with a three-pointer, Mary Eaton scored from the right baseline, Alex DeBoer took a Viv Juncal pass and hit inside, and Lillian Martin added another “three” to knot the score at 12-12 with 1:11 left in the half.

The Valiants answered in kind, though, getting a late Danielson hoop and a Meg Rapp foul shot to lead 15-13 at halftime, then tacked on a 7-0 run to open the third quarter. There, Bush hit an early foul shot, LaBonte made a steal and scored on the fast break, Bush took an Alsdorf pass and scored inside, and Bush then hit two free throws to extend her team’s lead to 22-13 with 4:56 left in the period.

The Crusaders weren’t done yet, though. Over the next 1:52, Alvarez buried a “three” from the left corner, Dakotah Rothfus scored on the break, Alvarez hit again from long range, and Martin drilled a three-pointer of her own from the top of the key to chop VC’s lead to just 25-24 with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter.

But Valley Catholic never relinquished its lead, and when it pulled away again at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, the Crusaders had no answer. The Valiants got a fast break hoop from McDevitt and two Alsdorf foul shots to close out the third with a 29-24 lead, then added seven straight points at the start of the final quarter.

Bush took a McDevitt pass and hit from the right baseline at the start of the fourth, Bush scored again on a broken play three possessions later, McDevitt finished another fast break, and Danielson added one free throw to push VC’s lead to 36-24 with 4:48 left on the clock.

From there, the Valiants hit enough free throws (two each by Bush and Gabourel) and played enough defense down the stretch to pave the way to their state championship.

“I’ve been on a lot of teams where we’re in playoff games, we’re in the round of 16, we’re making it to state and we just couldn’t get there,” Alsdorf said. “This is my first state championship medal for high school and I couldn’t have asked for a better moment with a better team.”

“It’s my first one and it measured up to everything I thought it could be,” Gabourel said. “We just pushed through it and stuck to our system. We knew that we could do it. It feels so good to make a comeback and finish it.”

“We played so hard this whole season,” said McDevitt, who also was named to the all-tournament second team. “We deserved this. We’ve been working hard and I’m really proud of my team.”

Danielson had five points and six rebounds for VC, while Emily Alvarez led St. Mary’s with seven points and five steals, while Rose Alvarez scored six.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to milesvance.exposuremanager.com.