Creswell threatens late, but VC pulls away to win its opener
by: MILES VANCE, GOING UP — Valley Catholic sophomore Jeni Picken catches some air against Creswell on Feb. 27 at state.

SALEM - It wasn't always easy and it definitely wasn't pretty, but Valley Catholic made sure that its Class 3A girls state basketball tournament opener was a win and that's what mattered most.

The West Valley League champion Valiants got a game-high 14 points from sophomore Emily Anctil and 13 more from sophomore Jeni Picken to pull away from Creswell and win 44-38 at Willamette University last Wednesday. Valley Catholic improved to 27-2 with the win while the Bulldogs, the third-place team from the PacWest Conference, fell to 14-14.

'In the first half, we were playing kind of frantic, but then we settled down and at halftime we figured out their defense and where the openings were and just adjusted to that,' said Picken, who hit 4-of-7 shots from the field, 5-of-8 at the line and grabbed 12 rebounds.

After leading just 13-12 at the end of the first quarter, the Valiants used a 13-3 scoring edge in the second quarter to take control. Picken hit all three of her shots in that second quarter and two free throws for the Valiants, while junior teammate Johanna Crisman added a three-pointer for a 26-15 lead at the half.

VC was still up 35-21 entering the fourth quarter, but Creswell, led by Alicia Geil's 14 points, made it interesting. Bulldog point guard Sara Collins hit two three-pointers in the first half of the period and teammate Chandler Gabrio added two hoops to cut the Valiants' lead to 36-31 with 3:08 remaining.

Valley Catholic was still ahead by five after Geil scored on the fast break with 1:51 to go, but the Valiants salted the game away at the line, making 8-of-12 in the final 2:22 to win, four from senior Nicole Hardisty and three by Anctil.

'It was in the fourth, with 2-1/2 minutes to go, we were only up five and I remember my heart was pounding so fast,' said Anctil, who added three assists and five steals in the win. 'I think we all just realized 'This is big. We should probably try our best.''

'They definitely had the momentum there for a while. I was just hoping we could make some free throws which we finally did,' said Valley Catholic coach John Innes. 'To hit those free throws when they were fouling, that was really key down the stretch.'

VC's Lisa Gallinat added seven points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Gabrio added 10 and Collins nine.

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