Girls’ Hoops Rebounds from Cromwell Loss by Beating NB

Mary Hope Gardner (left) and the Valley girls’ basketball squad faced a tough top-seeded Cromwell on Feb. 12 and lost 63-25.

Facing undefeated Cromwell on Feb. 12, the Warriors had quite the task at hand in trying to beat the Panthers. Despite a praiseworthy first-half effort from Valley, the Warriors fell 63-25.

“We hung with them for the first half,” Coach Matt Needleman said. “But they’ve got another gear and we struggled against their pressure.”

Valley then rebounded from the Cromwell loss by defeating North Branford 65-46 in in the Shoreline Conference Tournament play-in round to advance to a rematch against Cromwell.

The Cromwell began predictably with Cromwell building a quick 10-2 lead on the shoulders of its front court—senior Lindsay Langenauer and junior Janelle Harrison. These two players dominated inside, and Harrison ended the first quarter with 10 points. The Warriors were able to hang around, though, as sophomores Neve Flynn and Mary Hope Gardner each saw a lot of playing time with seniors Emily Frese and Megan Sasena out, and they took advantage, scoring early buckets in the paint. Senior Allie McDougall tacked on a three to bring the score to 21-7 in favor of the Panthers six minutes into the first.

Junior Emily McKosky (8 points) also played a solid game with extended playing time, and she drained a corner jumper late in the first to bring Valley within 12. The Warriors stopped Cromwell on the defensive end, and on their next possession, Nicole Hines grabbed a rebound off of a missed jump shot and put it back in to make the score 21-11. Cromwell captain Kelly Flanigan responded with a driving finish, ending the first quarter at a 23-11 clip.

Langenauer converted a layup to open the second and McKosky returned the favor with a baby hook in the lane, pushing the score to 25-13. Cromwell then scored four points in a row off of two tough jump shots, including a turnaround from Langenauer with Hines draped all over her. Halfway through the second the score stood at 29-13 in Cromwell’s favor.

Sophomore Sam McKosky had perhaps the play of the game for Valley when she got in the passing lane and poked the ball away from Cromwell. She finished on the fast break with her left while absorbing contact and she made the subsequent free throw. After a Cromwell free throw, the score was 30-16.

Emily McKosky kept the sister act going, turning a fade-away jumper into two points and making the deficit only 12. The half ended with Cromwell leading 30-18.

“We had to fight in the second half like we did in the first half,” said Emily McKosky. “Cromwell is undefeated for a reason, but we wanted to show them otherwise.”

The second half proved to be nothing like its predecessor. Valley junior Kelly Duggan buried a three-pointer to open the half, putting Valley within striking distance and down by only nine. This would be as close as the Warriors got, though, as Cromwell countered with a three of their own, then forced a turnover which turned into two more points for Harrison. After another midrange jumper from Langenauer, the score was 37-22.

The Panthers went on a 13-0 run from this point, and the score now read 50-22 as the Cromwell press was too much for Valley, and the Panthers capitalized off of the Warriors’ turnovers. Emily McKosky hit two free throws to end the quarter at 50-24.

Valley only scored one point in the fourth, and Cromwell won the game 63-25.

Despite the loss, the Valley girls’ team has had its best season in a decade. With seniors McDougall, Frese, Hines, Megan Sasena, Lauren Budney, and a strong underclass featuring Flynn, Gardner, Duggan, Decker, Emily McKosky, and Sam McKosky, the Warriors have incredible depth and are poised to play spoiler in the postseason.

“We will hopefully have a couple practices under our belt and our main lineup back,” McDougall said of the Warriors’ upcoming postseason schedule. “We’re just trying to make some noise and compete in both the tournaments.”

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