Valley Girls’ Hoops Went on a Memorable Run in 2022
The Valley Regional girls’ basketball team was among the cream of the crop in the Shoreline Conference and then made some major waves in states during the 2022 season. Head Coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt feels proud of her players for how they dedicated themselves to success and then delivered on the court this winter.
Valley finished its regular season with a record of 17-3, including a mark of 13-3 in the Shoreline Conference. After losing to East Hampton in the Shoreline Conference final, the Warriors won three games in the Class M State Tournament to advance to the semifinal round, where they took a defeat against Holy Cross to finish at 22-5 overall.
Valley’s run to the Class M semifinals marked the furthest that the team has gone in states since the 1999 season. The Warriors also finished with a record of 11-0 in their home games this year.
“I think we did a great job going after our goals we set as a team at the beginning of the year. We wanted to be Shoreline and state champions, and this is the first team that believed they could get there,” Coach Bickelhaupt said. “Every day, the girls came ready to work, and they pushed each other in practice. With the amount of adversity this team has faced this year, I’m incredibly proud of where we were at the end of the season.”
Of the many memorable moments that Valley experienced this season, there are a few that stick out to Coach Bickelhaupt in particular. Bickelhaupt always made it a priority for her squad to work hard in practice, and one the most rewarding feelings for the Warriors’ head coach came when she saw sophomore Sharmel Rivera execute a move that they been working on in those practice sessions during a game.
“I love when we work on something so often in practice and it translates in a game,” said Bickelhaupt. “Sharmel, one of our sophomore players, had an amazing move in our game against Portland and finished her first reverse layup in game. It was great to watch, and the bench went crazy for her. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Coach Bickelhaupt also reflects fondly on her team’s two victories against Cromwell this season. The Warriors bested Cromwell by a 49-46 score in a home game on Feb. 10 and then claimed a 50-40 victory versus the Panthers in the Shoreline Conference semifinals just two weeks later.
“The two games that we won against Cromwell were very memorable. At home, that was the first time Valley girls’ basketball has beat Cromwell in a very long time. I’m talking over 10 years,” Bickelhaupt said. “And then when we played at Cromwell for the semifinals, what a game. It was so fun to coach and be a part of. Coming out with a win in a close game to get to the finals against a great team, it was an unforgettable game.”
Valley Regional was led by a trio of captains in seniors Ava Cunningham and Bitzy Klomp and junior Abby Bradbury this season. Bradbury earned All-State First Team and All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors for the Warriors after averaging 17.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 steals per game on the year. Cunningham secured a spot as an All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention selection for Valley.
Junior Lily Grow garnered All-Shoreline Conference Second Team accolades this year. Grow averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest for Coach Bickelhaupt’s squad.
“It’s great to see the girls’ hard work pay off,” said Bickelhaupt. “These players are cornerstones to who we are and what we do. Without them, this would be a very different team.”
Valley’s junior class also featured Siena Schaller and Elizabeth Allen. Olivia Cunningham was the other sophomore for the Warriors, whose roster also included freshmen Rubee Cecchini, Emma Gibson, and Regan Grow.
Looking ahead to next season, Coach Bickelhaupt feels encouraged that the Warriors will be returning the bulk of this year’s club. Bickelhaupt has emphasized to her players to train hard throughout the offseason, and she’s eager to see the results of those efforts on the court.
“I think we can learn to box out consistently and finish around the rim better. If we do that, we win those big games,” Bickelhaupt said. “Expectations in the offseason is for the girls to be training on their own, hitting the weight room with their workout programs, and to play basketball in the summer and fall leagues. If they can do that, they set themselves up for success to start the season much stronger than most other teams. We need disciple in the offseason, especially when the motivation wears off.”
Coach Bickelhaupt is looking forward to the emergence of a few younger athletes coming up from the middle school ranks. Bickelhaupt believes that if the Warriors have a little more depth next season, then it will be very difficult for opposing teams to beat them in 2023.
“I’m excited for next season,” said Bickelhaupt. “I’m hoping to have a handful of freshmen join us, hopefully enough to have a JV team. We are going to be a force to reckon with.”