Pictured: Valley’s Olivia Cunningham slides over to guard East Hampton’s Jackie Russell in Tuesday’s Shoreline Conference game in Deep River. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

DEEP RIVER — The Valley Regional girls basketball team parlayed an aggressive, fast-switching man-to-man defense, a big scoring night from Abby Bradbury and the strong inside work of Lily Grow and Olivia Cunningham to hand East Hampton its first loss in nearly two years Tuesday night.

The 41-28 setback, East Hampton’s first loss since a 42-38 defeat at Cromwell High on Jan. 24, 2020, ended the Bellringers’ 32-game winning streak.

Bradbury, who scored all 11 of Valley’s first-quarter points and 18 of their 24 first-half points, finished with 19 on the night after running into foul trouble early in the third quarter and eventually fouling out with 5:11 to play.

Abby Bradbury, who scored a game-high 19 points, is pressured by the Bellringers’ Liana Salamone. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

Meanwhile, the Warriors’ defense stifled the young Bellringers — who started three sophomores and two freshmen — limiting them to a total of five field goals on the night and single-figure scoring totals in each quarter.

The win improves Valley’s record to 3-0 on the young season while East Hampton drops to 3-1.

“Valley played very well tonight while we’re going through some growing pains,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “The good news is that the deficiencies we displayed tonight can be addressed — they can be corrected.

“I’m anticipating that this team will make some progress over the course of our season,” he added. “I’m hoping tonight serves as a great lesson for us.”

After East Hampton’s Jackie Russell opened the scoring with a drive through the lane, Bradbury scored on a drive through the paint, a layup and a long 3-pointer from the top of the key to stake the Warriors to an early 7-2 lead.

Freshman Liana Salamone, who also totaled 19 points on the night, hit a pair of free throws and Delaney Russell added another to close the gap to 7-5 with 2:33 to play in the quarter. Bradbury hit a layup off a feed from Olivia Cunningham and followed with another drive through the lane to make it 11-5 after the first eight minutes of play.

Bradbury added seven more points while Olivia Cunningham chipped in with six as the Warriors outscored their guests 13-7 over the second quarter to take a 24-12 halftime lead.

After an exchange of free throws to open the second half, Salamone fed Jackie Russell with a pretty feed and the resulting layup sliced the Warriors’ lead to 10 at 25-15. But Lily Grow answered with a layup off a feed from Liz Allen, Bradbury hit a free throw and Allen scored on a putback from underneath to widen the lead to 15 at 30-15 midway through the third quarter, which ended with Valley holding a 35-21 lead.

A drive by Salamone with three minutes gone in the final quarter sliced the Warriors’ lead to 12 at 38-26, but the young Bellringers could never get closer.

Olivia Cunningham scored nine for Valley and Lily Grow added seven. While those two also helped the Warriors dominate the boards, senior point guard Ava Cunningham played a strong floor game for Valley, according to Valley coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt.

Other than Salamone, only three players scored points for the Bellringers – Jackie Russell with six, freshman Olivia DeMartino with two and Delaney Russell with one – as the visitors had trouble finding good shots against Valley’s tight man-to-man defense all night.

“We played very well on defense and I think our constant switching confused them a little,” Bickelhaupt said. “At times I thought we were a bit too aggressive and were committing way too many fouls, but we managed to keep our composure and pull things out in the end.”

Bickelhaupt praised the efforts of Bradbury, who spent her freshman year at Mercy, calling her a “tremendous asset from the day she first joined the team;” Lily Grow, who “stepped up” and played a strong game on the boards; and Allen, who “played a big game for us defensively.”

The coach also cited the effort of Olivia Cunningham, a sophomore, who “always works her butt off” and “is going to be a big force for us” as the season progresses.

Valley will swing into action again on Dec. 30 when it hosts Granby Memorial, while East Hampton will host Cromwell on Dec. 28.

EAST HAMPTON (28)
Olivia DeMartino 0 2 2, Amber Murphy 0 0 0, Delaney Russell 0 1 1, Liana Salamone 3 13 19, Jackie Russell 2 2 6. Totals: 5 18 28.

VALLEY REGIONAL (41)
Liz Allen 2 1 6, Ava Cunninham 0 0 0, Olivia Cunningham 4 0 9, Abby Bradbury 8 1 19, Lily Grow 3 1 7, Liz Klomp 0 0 0, Siena Schaller 0 0 0. Totals: 17 3 41.

Score By Quarters
East Hampton…. 5  7  9  7–28
Valley Regional…11 13 11 6–41

3-pointers: Valley: Bradbury 2, Allen 1, Olivia Cunningham 1.

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