by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER -  Senior point guard Jarrett Gray, right, led Valley with 27 points on Tuesday.

There’s no beating around the bush.

If the Valley Catholic boys’ basketball battles as it did against Portland Adventist on Tuesday in a showdown of the 3A’s top two teams, there is little uncertainty as to what could transpire in the near future.

The Valiants will take on all comers from far and wide in the 3A classification and raise a state championship banner in their gym this March — it’s as simple as that. The way Valley dominated PAA, playing arguably three of its best four quarters of the season en route to a 72-55 victory, one had to leave thinking there’s little that can stand in the way of a Valiant coronation.

Granted, there’s two weeks of regular season, a round of state playoffs and, of course, the state tourney to go. The message Valley sent to any potential state contender however, by clowning the Cougars with cutting defense, self-sacrificing team play and high-gear hustle, was clear.

When they’re on top of their game, the Valiants have few, if any, peers.

“We want everyone else to know that we mean business,” said senior point guard Jarrett Gray. “We treated this as any other game, but this was a little more important to make a statement.”

“It makes us realize if we play at a high level, it’s going to be tough to beat us,” said senior post Gabe Taylor. “We know we can beat them, and we can play with anybody.”

“If we can play like this every night, it’s going to be tough for teams to stop us,” added junior wing JD Menkens. “We have to treat every game the same, though. If we played Warrenton again, we’d push it just as much as we did tonight. Coach (Sobotka) tells us to think about the next game, not anybody else.”

That statement both Valiant captains referred to was resounding in the first quarter as the Valiants snapped up a 19-2 lead on the finishing ability of Taylor, the tight handles and playmaking capacity of Gray and the Valiants’ hardiness on the defensive end of the floor. Forcing turnovers that catered to Valley’s fastbreak attack, the Valiants binged on the Cougars’ clumsiness with Gray scoring 10 points and Taylor tacking on four. Kazuma Lane’s corner three off an inbound play pushed Valley’s lead to 19-4 at the end of the first quarter.

“We had more energy — we had a passion,” said Menkens. “Last time we played them (a 72-59 loss), they worked harder than us. We realized we could be just as good of a team as them if we just put our minds to it and really hustle. We had a look on our faces and put it to them.”

“We came out with a lot of energy and were really aggressive,” added Gray. “We looked to push the ball, get layups and keep attacking them throughout the game.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior post Gabe Taylor had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Valiants.


Taylor and Gray triggered the second quarter with a backdoor alley-oop lob dunk, and Alex Butz finished a hoop off a pass from Menkens to go up 28-13.

PAA weathered Valley’s initial wave of momentum, however, scratching back into the contest in the second quarter with a 19-4 run that was spurred on by Ryan Halveren’s 15 points. Valley let off the gas pedal a bit by taking a few bad shots and coming away with occasional empty offensive possessions. At halftime, following a 9-0 run to close the second quarter, Valley’s first-quarter lead had been cut to 35-27.

“We realized if we really wanted this game, we had to push through being tired,” said Menkens. “We condition in practice, so we can keep going. I’d say we had some rest coming out after halftime, and we just pushed it. We knew we couldn’t let up, so we just kept it going.”

The Cougars pulled within 35-30 at the start of the third, but Gray and Taylor hijacked the rest of the period, combining for 12 of the Valiants’ 16 points to put Valley comfortably back ahead, 51-36. Gray got into the lane with well-advised drives to the tin, where the ambidextrous finisher was able to score with either hand. Lane, Menkens and Butz also scored as the Valiants held PAA to just six points in the last six minutes of the third.

“We got a lot of stops,” said Taylor. “Stops led us to easy buckets. We have a goal to see how many times we can get three stops in a row. That gives you the opportunity to push the ball up the court and get easy shots. We had a bunch of layups because of our energy on the defensive end of the floor.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic wing JD Menkens, right, drives past a Portland Adventist defender in the first quarter.

“If we get stops, we get in transition and move upcourt quickly,” added Menkens. “As long as our defense is working, that’s what pushes our offense to score quickly on them. We knew if we pushed it on them, that they couldn’t stop us.”

Sharp ball movement helped Taylor bury a trio of threes in the fourth, and Gray scored eight more points on a slew of steals-and-hoops and pull-up jumpers in front of PAA’s help defenders. Taylor’s three from the right corner with 2:02 to go in the fourth gave Valley its biggest advantage of the night, 70-48.

Gray finished with 27 points, and Taylor had 20. Menkens scored seven points, Butz had six, and Tysen Prunty punctuated the final output with five for the Valiants, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in the 3A power rankings.

“Coach reminded us to come out hard and play defense,” said Gray. “And, we still wanted to be aggressive and look to attack every time.”

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