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Valley Catholic girls want to win back-to-back state titles

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic wing Kaylynn Bush is one of many Valiants who can put the ball in the hoop offensively.

Coos Bay holds a special place in the hearts of the Valley Catholic girls’ basketball team.

The site of the 3A state tournament, Coos Bay is where the Valiants made school history last year by beating longtime nemesis Rainier in the semifinals and dethroning St. Mary’s in the state title game. It’s where the Valiants made lifelong memories with their teammates, navigating a loaded state tournament field with a bunker-mentality while bunking together off the court in a local hotel.

The coastal town was almost a surrogate three-day home to the Valiants, who embraced their surroundings and thrived under the hostile, physical conditions of tournament play to come away with the state crown.

Now, despite graduating six seniors who were all important in their own ways, the 2013-14 Valiants are nonmoving in their season’s ambition. Valley wants to make the four-hour drive back to Coos Bay and thinks it has the calvary to do what many think is nearly impractical: win consecutive state titles.

“I have no doubt we’ll be back in the state championship game,” said sophomore wing Jessi Beyer. “I think we have a great team this year. We lost some seniors but those spots are being filled by some underclassmen and other upperclassmen. We just have to work hard, and we’ll get there.”

Valley has a well-balanced ensemble of ball handlers, knockdown shooters, practiced posts, and lethal scorers, who have meshed nicely in the preseason. Senior guards Grace Mannen, Addie Flemmer and Lindsie LaBonte can sink outside shots, but also break down the defense off the dribble for their own individual offense or shots for their teammates.

Sophomore post Molly Danielson, senior power forward Kim Duyck and junior center Bailey McDevitt are all 5-foot-10 or taller and give the Valiants a decisive advantage inside and on the boards. Beyer and fellow lefty Kaylynn Bush can slash, pass or pour in perimeter jumpers. Junior post Maddie Vinson brings energy off the bench and can spell McDevitt or Danielson without a drop-off in productivity.

“I always like to say, ‘It’s a team loss or a team win’,” said Mannen. “When we play like we did against Damascus (a 59-51 win), where we’re all attacking the boards, making shots, playing good defense, helping each other out and talking, that was a team win. If we play like that and get team wins, I definitely think we can make it back to Coos Bay and probably win, knock on wood.”

Mannen said going back-to-back is going to take an even greater effort this year, knowing every 3A team in the state wants what the Valiants already possess. But, Mannen knows if Valley plays up to its potential, there’s nothing that can get in the way of the Valiants’ goals.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic post Kim Duyck can play the power forward and center spots for the Valiants.

“There are a lot of good teams out there, but we’re one of them,” said Mannen. “Our potential is really high. So, if we just play up to that potential every single game, and we don’t get complacent and let anything get to our heads, I think we can continue to move forward.”

Head coach John Innes can go as many as 11 players deep into his rotation, and will do so regularly so the Valiants can go all-out deploying their 1-2-2 fullcourt press and rushing the ball down the floor in transition.

“I think we work really well together on and off the court,” said LaBonte. “We have good relationships, which definitely helps us. I think we can work on other things, but rebounding is big for us. That’s our main goal, taking advantage of our posts and their height compared to other teams.”

The Valiants’ first goal is to win the Lewis and Clark League for the final time, as Valley Catholic advances to the 4A Cowapa League in 2014-15. Then, they want to return to Coos Bay for a repeat run at the 3A state tournament to see if Valley Catholic can duplicate history and stick another glossy state championship banner on their gym wall.

“We don’t think too far ahead, but winning state is definitely the goal,” said LaBonte. “We all have it in the back of our heads.”

Ranked third in the 3A OSAA power rankings behind St. Mary’s and Vale, Valley has started the season 8-2 with losses to 4A powers Mazama and La Salle. Vale and St. Mary’s might have the current top-two spots in the 3A pecking order, but LaBonte said the Valiants won’t soon be discounted in the race for another championship trophy.

“We definitely want our names still out there,” said LaBonte. “We want teams to know we’re still in the race, and we still want it.”



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