HAZELTON — Oakley and Valley were destined to have a low-scoring affair. Last year, the two teams played twice: Oakley won the first by a score of 33-28. Valley, the eventual conference champion, won the second by a score of 29-22.
Undefeated Oakley entered Thursday night’s matchup surrendering 24.4 points per game. Valley, which came in with one loss, had given up 30.3 points per game in its first ten games.
The teams’ defensive proficiencies culminated in a 24-18 win by Valley Thursday night, in a game that included just 15 total made field goals, and points were at a premium. With the win, Valley stays undefeated in conference play, and hands Oakley its first loss of the year.
The Vikings trailed for the entirety of the game until senior Tannah Sellers drove the lane and dished to Taylor Hodges for a go-ahead basket with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter. Valley grabbed a rebound at the other end, an senior Madisyn Kimmel scored on a run out that put the Vikings up for good.
“Our focus is always on our defense, and our offense usually comes along with it. This is a great example of two teams that both focus on their defenses. Oakley is tough. It was a close game, and we knew it would be,” said Valley head coach Jamie Kohtz.
With 14 seconds left, Valley senior Kynsee Mussman sealed the game with two free throws that put the Vikings up by six.
“I was focused on the basket and nothing else. The crowd was crazy, and everything around me was crazy, so I just tried to focus in on the rim,” said Mussman. “We’re all really proud and excited. This was definitely one of our best defensive games all year.”
Coming into the game, Oakley’s closest game of the season was a six-point win over Castleford. The Hornets’ average margin of victory was 21.1 points per game.
“We didn’t talk much about this being a big game. We try to treat every game like just another game. We have tough practices every night, and try to bring it every night,” said Kohtz.
The animation of Oakley head coach, Matt Mallory, juxtaposed with the quiet confidence of Kohtz, provided an intriguing subplot in a game in which both teams were content to let defense reign supreme.
Valley played both a 2-3 zone defense and man-to-man defense, but relied heavily on its zone defense to slow down the Hornets’ offensive attack. Kohtz says the zone is new to this particular rendition of the Vikings, but her team is becoming more comfortable with playing it.
“Oakley is such a great team. We haven’t had a lot of close games this year either, and this is just what we needed. We start playing conference teams for the second time next week, so to pull out a defensive battle against a great team like Oakley is huge,” said Kohtz.
Valley 24, Oakley 18
Mussman 7, Sellers 6, Kimmel 6, Hodges 5 Totals: 7 9-13 24
B. Hardy 6, Wybenga 3, Mitton 3, Elquist 2, Whittle 2, Cranney 2 Totals: 8 1-2 18
3-point goals: Valley 1 (Sellers) Oakley 1 (Wybenga) Total fouls: Valley 7, Oakley 13 Fouled out: None