Pictured: Valley Regional freshman Lily Grow (12) stretches out for a rebound during Tuesday night’s Shoreline Conference game against Westbrook.

By Marc Silvestrini

DEEP RIVER – The Valley Regional and Westbrook girls’ basketball teams
engaged in a close, tense and exciting basketball game on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, at least from Westbrook’s perspective, that close, tense
game only lasted for 16 minutes, or the first half of the game. The Warriors
outscored their guests 35-14 in the second half to turn a slender 25-24
halftime advantage into a comfortable 60-38 win.

“We went in at halftime and talked about how we had to get our energy
level up, how we had to play with more confidence and how we had to
bring everything we have out onto to the floor in the second half,” said
Alena Crosby, Valley’s co-captain and leading scorer on the night.

“Westbrook’s a tough team and we knew we would have to play hard for
the next 16 minutes in order to turn things around,” she said.

To their credit, Valley did turn the game around in the third quarter, but not
before Westbrook gave the Warriors all they could handle in the second
quarter, an eight-minute stretch that Westbrook coach Frank Lyon called
his team’s “best quarter of the year.”

The win squares Valley’s overall record at 6-6 on the season and 5-5 in
Shoreline Conference play. Westbrook is now 3-11 on the season and 1-10
in SLC play.

Crosby scored 16 points to lead the Warrior attack while freshman Lily
Grow added 10, and Liz Klomp and Ava Cunningham chipped in with
seven apiece. Jami Sacco led all scorers with a 17-point effort while Sadi
Susi had 11.

“We’re only about six deep so I think a little bit of fatigue might have set in
in that second half,” Lyon said. “Our offense got a little out of synch, we
didn’t get to as many of those 50-50 balls in the second half, and we didn’t
do a very good job on the boards.

“It’s tough to win a basketball game when you get beat in those three
phases of the game.”

Engaging in a fierce battle for a rebound are: Valley’s Reagan Brenneman (20) and Westbrook’s Alexandra Koplas (21) and Alexandra Zanzalari (32).

Sacco opened the game with a pair of free throws to give the Knights a
short-lived 2-0 lead, but Valley answered with eight straight, including four
by Crosby, to race off to an early 8-2 lead. Westbrook closed to within a
bucket at 10-8 with just over a minute to play in the quarter, but a deep
three-pointer by Crosby and a layup by Salmi Miller off a Crosby feed
stretched the Warrior lead to seven, at 15-8, after one quarter of play.

The Knights came charging back in the second quarter behind some terrific
floor play by Sacco, a sophomore point guard who had three baskets and
three assists during the quarter, and the three-point shooting of Susi.

A pair of buckets by Grow stretched the Valley lead to nine, at 19-10 in the
first minute and a half of the quarter, but the Knights countered with a 13-0
run over the next three minutes to grab a 23-19 lead with just over three
minutes left in the half. The 13-0 spurt was propelled by a conventional
three-point play by Callie Newberg and two long three-point bombs by Susi.

The Warriors, however, regained the lead by outscoring the Knights 6-1
over the balance of the first half to walk off the court with a 25-24 halftime

Five points from Crosby and three each from Klomp and Elizabeth Allen
enabled the Warriors to outscore their guests 15-4 over the first four and a
half minutes of the third quarter, stretching their lead to 12 at 40-28.

After Susi hit yet another three to bring Westbrook back to within nine at 40-31, Addison Marchese hit a three for Valley and Cunningham converted a conventional three-point play to help the Warriors close the quarter with a 6-1 spurt, making it 46-32 entering the final eight minutes of play.

The Warriors then put the game on ice by outscoring Westbrook 8-1 over
the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 54-33 with four minutes left.

Valley coach Jaimie Toto said part of the reason for her team’s second half
success was that the Warriors made defensive adjustments at halftime to
slow down Sacco and Susi, Westbrook’s two most lethal offensive

“We made some defensive adjustments and we started making some of
our own shots,” she said. “I think those are the two things that made the
difference in our performance.

“And we also did a much better job on the boards in the second half,” she

Toto also said she is pleased with where her team is as the season moves
towards its final month. Because it played in a number of close, tight, edge-
of-your-seat games in the early part of the year, the team has gained a
good bit of confidence and composure since early December, two qualities
that are beginning to show up in games.

“This team has learned a lot over the course of the season,” she said. “We’ve continued to grow as a team and that’s always a good thing.”

Valley won’t have much time to enjoy Tuesday’s victory as the Warriors
swing back into action on Wednesday with a non-conference home game
against East Windsor. Westbrook has a home game Thursday against Old

Alexandra Koplas 0 2 2, Jami Sacco 5 7 17, Callie Newberg 1 2 4, Sadie Susi 4 0 11, Alexandra Zanzalari 2 0 4, Gianni Salisbury 0 0 0. Totals: 12 11 38.

Addison Marchese 2 0 6, Ava Cunningham 3 1 7, Alena Crosby 6 2 16, Salmi Miller 2 0 4, Reagan Brenneman 2 0 4, Siena Schaller 0 0 0, Elizabeth Klomp 2 2 7, Lily Grow 5 0 10, Elizabeth Allen 1 4 6, Campbell Toth 0 0 0. Totals: 23 9 60.

Score By Quarters
W 8 16 8 6–38
VR 15 10 21 14–60

3-Pointers: W—Susi 3; VR—Marchese 2, Crosby 2, Klomp 1.

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