Rest of Season Canceled for Valley Girls’ Basketball
Senior captain Addi Marchese and the Valley Regional girls’ basketball squad had their season abruptly halted in the midst of a 48-30 road victory over Hale-Ray on March 18. Also picture is fellow senior captain Libby Cap. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Alena Crosby and the Warriors were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 during their 64-33 home victory over Coginchaug on March 15. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Ava Cunningham and the Warriors finished the season with a 7-4 record, which would have been good for No. 5 seed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional girls basketball team’s season came to an abrupt end in strange fashion last week.
The Warriors were slated to play three contests last week but were forced to cancel the remainder of their season on March 16. Valley would have played one more regular season contest on March 18 and, after that, it would have been off to the Shoreline Conference Tournament. The Warriors ended up with an overall record of 7-4 on the year.
The bad news came in the midst of the Warriors’ 48-30 road win versus Hale-Ray on March 16. The Warriors were up big with less than half of the fourth quarter left to play when Head Coach Jaimie Bickelhaupt received word from Valley Regional nurse Sally Riggio that the Warriors had to stop the game and immediately head home.
During Valley’s 64-33 home victory over Coginchaug the night prior, the Warriors were exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, triggering the need for everyone on the team to self-isolate immediately to mitigate any potential spread of the coronavirus. The whole experience was somewhat surreal, according to Coach Bickelhaupt.
“The experience of it was really interesting. Our team manager was on the phone with the Nurse Riggio. He told me I had to take this phone call while we were in the middle of our mask break actually,” said Bickelhaupt. “Sally told us we had to stop the game. We were ex,posed against Coginchaug and had to pack up and leave. We didn’t really know what was going on. It didn’t hit us that it was the end of the season until we got on the bus and talked about what happened.”
If there was any consolation to the devastating news, Hale-Ray made sure that the game counted in the win column for Valley. Coach Bickelhaupt was grateful for the gesture.
“It’s technically supposed to go into the books that we forfeit. There were 3 ½ minutes left in the game, and we were up by almost 20,” said Coach Bickelhaupt. “Hale-Ray’s coach said that there was no way that we should forfeit the game. They were all really classy about it.”
The Warriors had a difficult bus ride home. Valley was slated to be the No. 5 seed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament, meaning that the team had secured at least one postseason home contest. Coach Bickelhaupt credited her senior captains Libby Cap, Alena Crosby, and Addi Marchese for helping the Warriors cope.
“It was tough to swallow, but we went into the season knowing this was a possibility. Our mantra was ‘Play every day like it’s the last day we step on the court.’ We knew it was possibility, but you don’t think it will happen, until it does,” said Coach Bickelhaupt. “Not really knowing what was going on, the girls were asking what just happened. It was tough to express emotions when we didn’t know what was going on. The captains were able to hone the team in a little bit even being upset themselves that it was their last season. They handled it extremely well in my eyes.”
Coach Bickelhaupt continued, “They handled that adversity exactly how I thought they would, leading the team by example on how to act when something like this happens. They want the best for the program, and they focused on doing what was best for everyone around them. They showed why they are captains.”
Despite the unfortunate end to the season, the Warriors were playing very well in the run up to the post season. In the 64-33 win over Coginchaug, Valley got out to a 15-10 lead after the first quarter and increased that advantage to 32-20 by halftime. The Warriors played stifling defense in the second half outscoring the Blue Devils 16-6 in the third quarter and 16-7 in the fourth quarter to secure the 31-point win.
Sophomore Lily Grow provided 18 points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and an assist, while freshman Olivia Cunningham added 12 points, 11 boards, four steals, and an assist. Crosby scored 11 points to go with three rebounds, an assist, and a steal, and sophomore Abby Bradbury tallied 10 points, four boards, four assists, three steals, and a block. Junior Ava Cunningham dished nine assists to go with four points and two steals, while sophomore Elizabeth Allen added four points, three steals, a rebound, and an assist. Marchese had three points, a rebound, a block, a steal, and an assist, while sophomore Sienna Schaller added two points, two boards, and an assist.
Coach Bickelhaupt knew that her team had a good chance to make some noise in the tourney, but she took some solace in the fact that her team really showed what they were capable of in their final two games of the season.
“The girls in both games played really well. I’m really proud of them,” Bickelhaupt said. “They definitely proved how good they could be. We just wish we could have taken a shot at Shorelines.”
The Warriors were really beginning to jell as the season wore on, and a big reason for their improvement came from Bradbury. The sophomore guard played her first season with Valley this year, and as she learned the Warriors’ playbook, Bickelhaupt’s strategies, and her teammates’ tendencies, the team began to hit its stride.
“Abby completely changed the dynamic of the team. Our team is a bunch of athletes with girls who are very smart and love to play, but Abby is basketball focused. She plays AAU and her commitment to the sport was a huge get for us,” Bickelhaupt said. “She set the tone of where we want to be. She took the role of a point guard while joining a new team, with a new playbook, a new coaching staff, and ran with it. The girls really took to that, and we really jelled the second half.”
One benefit of adding Bradbury to the team was getting Crosby to play off the ball a bit more.
“I definitely think Alena was more effective after adding Abby. We originally had Alena coming off screens for plays, and she flourished in that role, but she’s a better catch and shoot player,” said Bickelhaupt. “We had Addi, Ava, or Abby creating, and Alena would be more open and be able to catch and shoot. It put her in the best position to score all year.”
Marchese also adjusted her role this season, too. Part of that was because of the addition of Bradbury, but Marchese was also working her way back from injury. Ava Cunningham and Marchese were the main ball handlers from last season, and they still did their fair share of that this year.
“Addi was really forced to adjust because of her injury from last year. She was still coming back from an ACL tear. It was tough for her to play long periods of time. That’s where Ava and Abby step in. Ava really flourished as well in the second half. Addi and Ava were able to interchange their roles. It was nice to have three or four solid ball handlers on the floor when we get pressed by the other team. Addi gave us quality minutes this year, and I’m looking forward to see where Ava comes in next year. I’d love to see her add another dynamic to our offense.”
Some other quality contributors for Valley this season included Grow, Olivia Cunningham, and Allen. They added some quality depth and dynamics to the Warriors’ roster according to Coach Bickelhaupt.
“Lily Grow was an x-factor for us. She has really worked hard on finishing around the basket. We really needed that from her. She went from six to eight points a game last year in limited minutes to having 12, 15, 18, even 20-point games this year. She always gets to the right spot,” Bickelhaupt said. “Liz Allen and Olivia Cunningham were workhorses down low for us, too. Olivia gave us quality minutes in varsity games as a freshman. Next year, they will be another year stronger and wiser.”
Given the strides that the Warriors made this year, Coach Bickelhaupt is eager to see what’s in store for Valley next year. Presumably, the COVID-19 pandemic will have gone by the wayside. Additionally, one of the Warriors defensive stalwarts, Bitzy Klomp, will return to help lock down opponents. It may be hard to imagine in the aftermath of a canceled postseason, but the Warriors future looks bright.
“We are looking forward to having a normal season next year. We have some big shoes to fill leadership-wise with Alena, Addi, and Libby graduating,” said Bickelhaupt. “It will be big to see who works hard in the offseason. The girls know it matters who shows up in practice. You have to show what you can do, and it will be important to see which players evolve.”