Valley Girls’ Hoops Aiming for Second-Half Run to Playoffs
Sophomore Ava Cunningham and the Valley Regional girls’ basketball team lost a game against Cromwell and won a decision versus Haddam-Killingworth. The Warriors have a mark of 4-5 entering the second half of the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior captain Alena Crosby and the Warriors defeated Haddam-Killingworth by a score of 48-46 on Jan. 14. Crosby scored 20 points to lead her team in the victory. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Bitsy Klomp was part of an aggressive press that forced Cromwell into committing several turnovers during the first half of last week’s matchup. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional girls’ basketball team is still finding its way as the Warriors enter the second half of the regular season. Valley earned a split of two games last week by picking up a 48-46 win against Haddam-Killingworth and dropping a 64-45 contest versus Cromwell. With a record of 4-5, Head Coach Jaimie Toto’s squad has been notching some solid wins, while learning valuable lessons in its losses. Now, heading into the second half, Valley is looking to build some momentum and hopes to make its way into the postseason tournaments.
The Warriors got out to a hot start by winning their first three games this season, then struggled with a five-game losing streak before snapping it with the win over H-K. Coach Toto believes that swings like these are part of the growing process for a young club. Toto believes that the Warriors players can still reach the objectives they established at the beginning of the year.
“Our goals are still attainable. We just need to raise our practice standards and our game standards,” Toto said. “We need to hit those goals. The players see the level they need to get to in all the teams we lost to. We just need to execute and do all the little things every single day. We can still reach those goals if we do that.”
The Warriors’ 48-46 win over H-K on Jan. 17 was a good example of the kind of solid play and tenacity that will be necessary to reach the pinnacle this year. In a game where Valley didn’t play its absolute best, Coach Toto thought her squad showed the will to win a close game when it was all on the line.
“We didn’t really play our best defense. We let them get the shots they wanted and they made them. It was back and forth pretty much all game after we came back in the first quarter,” Toto said. “In the end we executed better than they did and hit our free throws to get the two-point win. It was sloppy, but we finished it up.”
The Warriors were trailing early in the first quarter, eventually letting the Cougars charge ahead to a 9-0 lead. Then Valley locked down on defense and got some stops and got some points back to make it a 15-14 game at the end of the first. It was a back-and-forth contest the rest of the way with neither team able to create any real separation. The Warriors pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter, which forced H-K to foul, and Valley made the crunch-time free throws for the win.
Alena Crosby had an outstanding game with a team-leading 20 points to go with seven rebounds and two steals. Bitsy Klomp provided eight points and eight boards, and Ava Cunnningham added eight points, three steals, and two assists. Junior Reagan Brenneman hauled in 12 rebounds to go with two blocks and two assists.
“Alena Crosby scored 20 points for us. Her shot wasn’t on, but she crashed the boards and got some put backs which was what we really needed,” said Coach Toto. “Other than that Ava Cunningham and Bitsy Klomp had solid games with eight points each, and Addi Marchese had four points.”
Earlier in the week on Jan. 14, Valley went up against a formidable Shoreline Conference foe in Cromwell. The Panthers are always a very tough matchup for Valley and this time was no different, as the Warriors dropped the 64-45 road contest. However, the Warriors did hang tough against Cromwell through the first half according to Coach Toto.
“It was a one-point game at half time. We played great the first half. We executed well on offense, and the girls really brought it from when we first entered the gym,” said Coach Toto. “Then we had a bad third quarter. They got the shots that they wanted to get and hit them. Then we were down, and we couldn’t climb back out of it. That first half, we showed that we could play with them. We just have to put a whole 32-minute game together.”
The Warriors saw Crosby score 14 points in the loss, and Bitsy Klomp and Cunningham looked good on defense.
“Alena Crosby had another great performance giving us 14 points, and defensively, Bitsy Klomp and Ava Cunningham were forcing Cromwell to make tough decisions with the ball,” Toto said. “It’s hard to play against pressure, and they were going crazy the first half. We just have to figure out how to be more consistent.”
In the end, Coach Toto feels encouraged that the Warriors still have their eyes on the prize. Her squad is focused on getting better even after struggling through a tough stretch of the season.
“The girls—despite the losses—are still bought into what we are trying to do. That’s hard when you lose a few in a row. I’m glad that they have that attitude,” Coach Toto said. “I attribute that to the captains Addi and Alena, but all the girls are bought into working hard for the team. If they can give that type of effort 100-percent of the time, we’ll reach our goals for this year.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional girls’ basketball team’s roster includes junior captains Alena Crosby and Addi Marchese; juniors Reagan Brenneman and Libby Cap; sophomores Ava Cunningham, Kaylee Hayes, Bitsy Klomp, Salmi Miller, Madison Sheehan, Hannah Tejedor, and Campbell Toth; and freshmen Elizabeth Allen, Lily Frese, Lily Grow, Brooke Rankin, Siena Schaller, and Sophie Scrivo.
This marks Jaimie Toto’s first season as Head Coach of the Warriors. Her coaching staff includes JV Head Coach Lauren Budney and assistant coach Allyson Pitney.
For the rest of the season, Valley plays home games against Westbrook, East Windsor, Lewis Mills, North Branford, and Cromwell. The Warriors hit the road for contests against Portland, Old Saybrook, Haddam-Killingworth, Stonington, Coginchaug and Morgan.