EMPORIA — The Valley Heights girls’ basketball team took a 12-point lead into the final period of Thursday’s Class 1A-Division-I quarterfinal, and seemed to be coasting its way toward an easy win.
That win eventually came for the Mustangs, who beat the Victoria Knights, 57-48, at White Auditorium.
But Victoria’s leading scorer Kristin Huser did everything she could to prolong her final game with 14 fourth-quarter points, finishing with 25 for the game.
Valley Heights head coach Jenny Yungeberg said the furious rally attempt brought back flashbacks of the Mustangs’ sub-state semifinal win over Hanover.
“(Hanover) was a scarring moment,” Yungeberg said. “Huser’s a good ball player.”
Fortunately, for Yungeberg and her squad, Huser couldn’t connect on many of her outside shots. She was 1 of 9 on 3-point attempts.
Credit the Mustangs’ unusual defense.
To take away Victoria’s hot-shooting guard, Yungeberg said the team played a match-up zone against the Knights.
“That’s way out of our comfort zone,” Yungeberg said. “We play man. That’s not what we do. But they did a great job.”
She said it was just the second time all season they used a zone defense. At the end, Yungeberg switched to a box-and-one to try and contain the Fort Hays State bound senior.
“We knew the ball was going to go to Huser so we tried to keep the ball out of her hands,” Yungeberg said.
Valley Heights (23-1) was led again by their two star players, Brandi Roepke (25 points) and Sidney Blackburn (16 points). Blackburn added 11 rebounds to complete her double-double.
“Both of them always seem to come up big at the right time,” Yungeberg said. “(Roepke) came up with some nice shots at the end. She tends to put them down.”
At first glance, it didn’t seem as if Roepke would end the game as the leading scorer. The usually reliable jump shooter was short on a few attempts and even admitted to her coach that this stage might be too big.
“Nerves. Nerves,” Yungeberg said. “She came down and said, ‘I can’t do anything.’ I told her, ‘Just relax.’ She gets pretty amped up.”
Lucky for the Valley Heights faithful, Roepke regained her confidence and tore through the remaining three quarters to lead the Mustangs in scoring.
Yungeberg did say that she would attempt to give Blackburn some more touches in their next game. The junior wing only attempted 10 shots, making seven. A majority of those came in the first half.
“We need to get the ball inside to her more,” Yungeberg said.
The game was a night of runs, Victoria (14-10) took the lead midway through the third quarter with seven straight points, but Valley Heights reorganized themselves and scored nine straight to take the lead again. The Mustangs never relinquished their advantage again and would outscore Victoria 17-11 in the third.
Valley Heights advanced to today’s semifinal against St. Paul (22-2) at 3 p.m.