Valley Girls’ Hoops Gains Split of First Two Games
Senior captain Alena Crosby and the Valley Regional girls’ basketball squad took a win and a loss last week to start the year with a 1-1 record. Crosby scored 14 points in the Warriors win over North Branford on Feb. 10. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Lily Grow scored eight points and corralled seven rebounds in the Warriors’ win over North Branford on Feb. 10. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Bitzy Klomp and the Warriors are working on consistency to help improve their record this season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional girls’ basketball squad opened the 2021 season last week playing a pair of games. The Warriors picked up a big 62-40 road win against North Branford and took a 44-36 road defeat against a tough East Hampton team.
Valley learned quite a bit in two short games and is in prime position to further improve as the year goes on.
Teams across the country are dealing with competing during a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, the challenges are numerous, but the Warriors are taking them in stride and working to get better, according to Head Coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt.
“Through the first few practices, we haven’t been able to run as many drills because we have to build up our conditioning,” said Bickelhaupt. “We’ve only have a few short practices, and it’s a lot to the girls to pick up, especially the newbies. We’re doing the best we can, and the girls are working hard every day. We’re just excited to be on the floor.”
On Feb. 10, the Warriors headed to North Branford where they took on the Thunderbirds and picked up a 22-point victory. Coach Bickelhaupt was impressed her team’s effort and unselfishness with the ball in the win.
“I saw a lot of great things from the team. We had a lot of ball movement, and we worked together to get the shots that we wanted,” said Bickelhaupt. “The focus in practice has been defense—in the limited practice that we’ve had. Our offense comes from our defense. Every day, we drill defense, and that showed, especially in the first half. North Branford has a really solid post player that we had some trouble stopping, but other than her we shut down everyone else.”
The Warriors got out to a 13-8 lead after the first quarter and built on that for a 28-17 advantage at halftime. Valley continued to grow its lead for a 47-27 edge after three, and the Warriors closed it out with a 15-13 fourth quarter to reach the 62-40 final.
Valley received an outstanding effort from recent transfer sophomore Abby Bradbury, who scored 18 points to go with 14 rebounds and six assists. Senior captain Alena Crosby scored 14 points and added three rebounds and three steals.
Coach Bickelhaupt is excited with the added dimension that Bradbury brings to the Warriors, especially the way she takes the pressure off other players.
“Abby Bradbury is new to the team, and she scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. She’s a point guard for us, but she’s tall, and a really solid basketball player,” Bickelhaupt said. “We’re really lucky to have her. Alena scored 14 points for us, and Abby took some of that scoring pressure off of Alena.”
Sophomore Lily Grow tallied eight points and seven boards, while junior Ava Cunningham had five points, four assists, and two steals. Senior captain Addi Marchese had six points, two boards, three assists, and a steal to her credit, while Elizabeth Allen snagged five points, four rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
“We had quite a few people picking up points for us,’ Bickelhaupt said. “Everyone is contributing, and when we play that type of basketball, it’s really hard to stop us.”
Of course, Coach Bickelhaupt always enjoys the leadership that her senior captains, Crosby, Marchese, and Libby Cap bring to the table.
“There’s a lot that I’ve been impressed with. Libby was injured last year, and she was only with us the first six games. She’s been a huge [help] in getting the girls to work out and get the ball in their hands. She’s holding people accountable. Addi is coming off an injury as well, and hasn’t started for us yet. She’s stepping up a ton in terms of leadership off and on the court. She’s keeping energy up on the bench. That’s a totally new form of leadership for her this year. She’s used to being on the floor the entire game. It’s awesome to see,” Bickelhaupt said. “Alena is a lot more confident in herself. She’s someone the girls look up to in all aspects. She’s really made the freshmen feel welcome, and then translates that onto the court.”
Two days after the victory over North Branford, the Warriors headed to East Hampton where they took a 44-36 loss against the Bellringers. Even in defeat, Coach Bickelhaupt was encouraged by the way Valley competed.
“It was a great game. We played really hard the entire game. They started pulling away when we started making mistakes with the ball. We tried to do a little too much and got a little flustered in the fourth quarter,” said Bickelhaupt. “We just missed the composure in the fourth quarter, and East Hampton has been there before. They were able to convert when it mattered. We have to practice a bit more to be more confident in those situations. I think the girls saw that they can compete at this level, and we’re learning a lot from that game, which is what we need.”
East Hampton took a 12-9 lead in the first quarter and maintained a 21-19 advantage by halftime. The Bellringers led 35-29 after three, and Valley wasn’t able to close the gap in the fourth quarter.
Allen scored 10 points to go with seven rebounds, while Crosby notched nine points and three steals. Bradbury tallied seven points and five assists, and Grow hauled in nine boards.
With their first week behind them, Coach Bickelhaupt wants the Warriors to take ownership of the aspects of the game that they have the most control over. Bickelhaupt believes that is the most efficient path to success for her squad.
“I’m looking for the girls to be a lot more consistent. We talk about controlling the controllables in the game and practice,” Bickelhaupt said. “The effort, the shot selection, hustle, effort—we can show up with all of that every day. We’re not there just yet. When we aren’t spending time on those things in practice, that’s when we will be doing really well. Consistency is the key.”